The Weekend's Television: Around the World in 80 faiths, Fri, BBC2
Prog Rock Britannia – an observation in three movements, Fri, BBC4

A history of Scotland, Sat, BBC2

The antiques rogue show, Sun, BBC2

Cult viewing at last

I hope, of course, that we have not already seen the weirdest religion that will ever be featured in Around the World in 80 Faiths.

But it's hard to believe that again in this eight-part series, the far-flung efforts of the Rev Peter Owen Jones, an Anglican vicar from Sussex, will uncover a set-up quite as strange as the John Frum cult. John Frum, it appears, was founded as a challenge to the Christianity that had been assaulting the island of Tanna, in the south Pacific, ever since Captain Cook first turned up there in 1774. The first missionaries had been eaten. But this didn't deter others, and by 1969, when cannibalism finally ended on the island, conversions were so widespread that a determined rearguard action had gathered pace.

A distinct cult first emerged in the 1930s, apparently, with a promise from somewhere that if the islanders would only return to the spiritual traditions of Kastom, then they would be provided for. But the cult didn't get its name or its symbol until the Second World War brought a US air base, and it was decided that Kastom had delivered these free-spending men. They would introduce themselves as "John from...", which became John Frum, and they loved the Stars and Stripes, so the US flag is the cult's most revered religious symbol. Mainly, the cult exists to campaign against the imported religion, untroubled by the Christian identity of the US, but deeply resentful of religious colonisation. In the modest travels the Rev Owen Jones has so far made, in Australasia, it was the odd clashes and weird accommodations between indigenous and imported religions that gave the show its fascination, and its intellectual bite. This might even turn out to be the most interesting religious series the Beeb has ever managed to broadcast.

There were further hints of spiritual ecstasy in Prog Rock Britannia – an Observation in Three Movements, an earnest documentary that attempted to pay tribute to the music that time and embarrassed grown-up men forgot. They were all there, all the boys from grammar schools who brought their Guildhall training to the electric guitar, all the lads from Oxbridge who cringed at three-minute pop lyrics, and flicked instead through Tacticus and Tolkein for inspiration. Their problem, they gradually acknowledged, was that they weren't really interested in audiences or entertainment, but instead were living in a dream, trying to create a value system for the early 1970s that "now seems like an old-time religion". By the time punk happened, they admitted, the prog rockers were entirely divorced from the "shortages, strikes and social disillusionments" that were apparent to everybody else. You had to admire their total commitment to "the delights of the diminished chord". Theirs was a kind of utopia, unless you were trapped in the audience.

And Scotland, of course, is a kind of utopia too, when you're at the top of a mountain on a clear day, and there aren't any other people cluttering the place up. A History of Scotland had ambitions to do for Scots what Alex Haley's Roots did for African-Americans, but has already been shown in Scotland and criticised balefully for being too Anglocentric. That wasn't the case in episode one, which was suitably dominated by Picts, Gaels, Romans and Vikings, just as we were always told at school. Perhaps later the show will imply that the crowns of the two countries were unified, with the Scots king buggering off to rule from England without a backward glance. Or that for quite a considerable period, Scotland was governed from Westminster, London. The show's presenter, Neil Oliver, declared that he was interested in the history of Scotland, rather that the mythology. I guess he found out pretty quickly that a lot of people prefer the latter.

The truth was certainly a difficult concept for the Greenhalgh family. Shaun, the son, for a number of years forged all kinds of different sorts of art, from ancient coins to Victorian paintings. With the assistance of his fantasist father, George, and his shrewd mother, Olive, he sold pieces to collectors, private and public, in Britain and the US. Eventually, the three were caught trying to offload Assyrian stone reliefs on the British Museum, and Shaun was imprisoned. The Antiques Rogue Show was a dramatisation of their true story. The one-off drama was watchable, because it told a compelling story using terrific actors (Peter Vaughan as George, Liz Smith as Olive, and Jeremy Swift as Shaun). But its narrative device – a journalist trying to "get the inside story" – was dreadfully lame, not least because the journalist's ideas about what the story "really meant" were impossibly shallow and banal. The journalist's theory was that if Shaun had had different parents, a different education, or a different background, then he would have been a great artist in his own right. In reality, what Shaun needed was a different age. At any other time in the history of Britain, Shaun's impeccable craftsmanship would have been respected in its own right, and wouldn't have had to be yoked to "creativity" and "the art market" in order to achieve "value". That's tragic, and not just for Shaun.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition