on the box

Barely has the nation had time to catch its breath after Andrew Graham-Dixon's excellent and exhaustive A History of British Art before the BBC launches another blockbusting art history series. Rather than a cool-dude broadsheet critic in a suit, however, Sister Wendy's Story of Painting offers us a bespectacled nun in a habit. The making of the 10-part series, a comprehensive "de-mystification" of art due to be broadcast on BBC1 from Sunday 30 June, must have taken it out of the 66-year-old. It took more than 100 days, travelling 30,000 miles, and visiting more than 40 art galleries, churches and studios in 12 countries. Sister Wendy Beckett has obviously not taken a vow of inactivity.

With the honourable exception of Drop the Dead Donkey, Channel 4 has perhaps not had as much success with home-grown sitcoms as it might have wished for. What celestial joy there was, then, when they hit upon Father Ted (right), the funniest sitcom about priests since... well, ever. The ratings bear out the channel's faith in the series. In the week ending 12 May, Father Ted, co-written by Graham Linehan (who moonlights as a columnist on this newspaper) and Arthur Mathews, was Channel 4's second most popular programme, after that perennial chart-topper, Brookside. Weighing in with nearly four million, the show was more than a million viewers ahead of its nearest C4 sitcom rival, Roseanne. Shows what a bit of divine inspiration can do for you.

The press has been invited "for a wizard show and lashings of ginger beer" at the launch of a new ITV children's series, Enid Blyton's The Famous Five, which begins on Monday 1 July. Ignoring PC reservations about Blyton, children will no doubt greet the new adaptation with delight. Their parents, on the other hand, may find it hard to watch without thinking of the Comic Strip's classic spoof, Five Go Mad in Dorset.

JAMES RAMPTON

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