Last Night's TV: Polar Bear: Inside Nature's Giants Special/Channel 4
Dance! The Most Incredible Thing about Contemporary Dance/BBC4

How's this for a fact? Polar bears are so fat that even if they don't eat for eight whole months they'll still be fine. They're practically supermodels! Or this: their penises have bones in them. Huge ones. Giant white pieces of calcium.

Even by its own high standards – and they are high – last night's Inside Nature's Giants was spectacular. The start of a new series, it saw the team booted out of their usual dark laboratory and into the startling, round-the-clock light of Greenland. The idea was to find a polar bear (or several) on whom to do their usual cut-and-delve. The thing is, they can't just go to a zoo because, this time, they're looking at something more than just anatomy. Recent reports of species abnormality have led scientists to believe that pollutants are contaminating the Arctic waters. So, together with a group of Danish scientists, Mark Evans et al want to know what the problem is. And they can't just find a dead bear lying around: not only are polar bears extremely difficult to spot (on which more later) but they are highly prized as hunting bounty by the local community. Though the quotas are strictly regulated, polar bear hunting is still permitted as a traditional subsistence practice.

Speaking of which: imagine living in Greenland! I can tell you this much: you wouldn't get your five-a-day. It costs £10 for a head of broccoli, so foreign a delicacy is it considered (leeks are relatively cheap; just £3 a pop). Chocolate seems to be the must-eat food, a sure-fire way of keeping warm. Before that, it was polar bear meat. Back when the first settlers arrived on the north-east coast of the island, long before imported veg and global warming, there were plenty of bears to hunt. They ate the meat and wore the skin: a trip to the local museum (Greenland's must-see tourist attraction) revealed an old outfit made of bear fur and sealskin, a kind of all-encompassing busby.

At any rate, all of this means that getting hold of a bear carcass was a tricky balancing act. Though they're offering a reward in return – and promising to salvage all edible meat – it's a disruption of local traditions, which hinge on sharing out the meat at the place of death. Still, eventually they get their prize, a youngish male, complete with giant penis-bone, brought in by the region's youngest hunter. And so begins the dissection: a giant bloody operation on the icy table of the Arctic.

First, the fur. No wonder it makes good gloves. So well equipped is it at insulation that bears are almost impossible to spot using infra-red technology: they lose next to no heat. Looking inside one is like looking inside one of Gillian McKeith's patients. They are what they eat. And, a lot of the time, they eat just that: fat. They kill seals for their blubber and leave the rest, and they are, as the good "doctor" would no doubt tell you, a cholesterol disaster waiting to happen. Except not, because they have a super-bear-sized gall bladder full of brine to sort it all out. Everything about them is ideal for their environment, from their tiny, warmth-retaining ears (quite literally, the opposite of the elephant's giant flaps) to their funny-shaped heads.

It's thought that they evolved from a group of brown bears when the ice age left them stranded in Siberia. Instead of your archetypal teddy-bear skull, a sleek, streamlined helmet evolved to help them fish for seals. As usual, Richard Dawkins is on hand to explain it all: the clever little processes that make nature work. And that bone. "I have a little theory about this," he giggled, a schoolboy trying out a dirty joke. Plenty of mammals have bones down there – humans are the odd ones out. The thing is, boys, maintaining an erection when you've got a giant bit of skeleton to hold it up is hardly an impressive sexual feat. It's possible, he thinks, that menfolk have evolved away from it in an attempt to impress the ladies. Classic case of getting us wrong.

The bad news is that there is, it seems, something wrong with the water. A second bear inspection – this time of a fully grown female – revealed a series of reproductive disorders that point to that. Whether their findings will make much difference remains to be seen, though the scientists, at least, are confident. "This is stuff that affects government policy," said one. Which is the least convincing argument I've ever heard.

Having watched Dance! The Most Incredible Thing about Contemporary Dance, I find myself wondering what, in fact, is the most incredible thing about contemporary dance. It's a surprising development, since I've never wanted to know before, but – what can you do – suddenly, it's consuming my consciousness. Is it the splits? The jumps? Or is it the fact that someone thought it a wise idea to make an entire programme about the Most Incredible Thing About Contemporary Dance? Because that's pretty incredible.

The conductor Charles Hazlewood has been given the unenviable task of discovering said phenomenon; he seemed rather most disposed to enjoy it than I was. He interviewed lots of experts, lots of choreographers, even did a bit of dance himself, but none of it seemed particularly incredible. Except the moves, which are impressive. But that's just dance, isn't it? We knew that already.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine