By Louise Bolotin
There’s a touch of class for Saturday night with Darcey Bussell’s Ballerina Heroines (Saturday, BBC2, 8.15pm). Inevitably, there’s a lengthy look at the work of her role model, Margot Fonteyn, but there’s also a peep behind the scenes of the Royal Ballet as Bussell explores the centuries-long history of the dance form and how it has changed. Bussell is a knowledgeable presenter, as you’d expect, and this is a highbrow follow-up to her delightfully whimsical …Dances Hollywood from 2011. The Cube (ITV, 8.20pm) returns for an eighth series. For my money, it’s the best of the weekend game shows – it’s original, it’s clever and its tension is properly breathtaking. Award-winning standup Stewart Lee’s eponymous series, Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle (BBC2, 10pm) is also back. An acquired taste, given he rarely tells any actual jokes, preferring instead to provoke and offend. A dramatised version of The Mayor of Casterbridge (Drama, 7pm), starring Ciaran Hinds and Juliet Aubrey, gets a fresh airing after 11 years. Made in 2001 and first shown in 2003, it’s in two parts, each of two episodes.
Three years after High Fearnley-Whittingstall exposed the worst practices of the fishing industry and took his anger over stock depletion to the EU, he looks at what has changed since then in Fish Fight: Hugh’s Last Stand (Sunday, C4, 7pm). His campaign has seen success with the EU ban on discards but he also reveals new worries. In Britain’s Bronze Age Mummies (C4, 8pm), the Time Team go on a dig at a burial mound in Northumberland. They must race against the clock as the recent severe storms threaten to destroy the site.
In Austerity Britain, it’s not just the unemployment figures and cost-of-living crisis. There’s stark evidence that the nation’s wealth has almost universally shifted to the capital. The two-part Mind the Gap: London vs the Rest (Monday, BBC2, 9pm) looks at how and why London is thriving economically while the rest of the UK struggles with council cutbacks and a broken jobs market. Meanwhile, Panorama’s Hungry Britain? (BBC1,8.30pm) examines the rise in the use of food banks by the severely impoverished. Not everyone’s starving though – Mary Berry Cooks (Monday, BBC2, 8.30pm) in a new six-part series that, unsurprisingly, starts with cake but goes on to explore all kinds of dishes. Berry has a refreshing down-to-earth style and oodles of useful kitchen tips. Mandela Remembered from Westminster Abbey (BBC2, 11.30am) is his UK memorial service. Led by SA president Jacob Zuma with an address by Desmond Tutu and tributes from anti-apartheid campaigners including Peter Hain. David Dimbleby anchors with suitable gravitas.
Another dance documentary looks at How World War Two Made British Ballet (Wednesday, BBC4, 9pm). David Bintley, director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, examines how the war meant British dancers had to up their game when it was no longer possible for foreign ballet stars to perform here. Dame Ninette de Valois, who despite her name was British, took her Sadler’s Wells troupe on tour, opening up this elitist art form to the masses, and created new classic productions. Rare archive footage helps reveal the story.
Political thriller 37 Days (Thurs-Sat, BBC2, 9pm) depicts the chain of events unfolding in the month before Britain declared war in the First World War, from the perspective of our government and other European cabinets. The opening episode launches with news reaching the Foreign Office of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. What happens next is endlessly well known but 37 Days plays it out as a taut and tense cat and mouse game of international diplomacy as Europe’s leaders alternately monger for conflict or try to broker peace. Mark Hayhurst’s writing is clean with fantastic dialogue, delivered with aplomb by a heavyweight cast that includes Ian McDiarmid, Tim Piggott-Smith, Sinead Cusack and Kenneth Cranham. Coronation Street: A Moving Story (ITV, 9pm) is a lighthearted documentary about shifting the famous cobbles from their Manchester city centre set three miles across town to their new home in MediaCityUK in Salford, opposite the BBC. It’s a phenomenal operation as filming must continue amid chaos and there are teary eyes aplenty as cast and crew say their farewells to Granada’s iconic site.
With the Winter Olympics over, it’s time for the Paralympics Opening Ceremony (Friday, C4, 3.30pm) in Sochi. You might want to set your PVR given the early start that accounts for the four-hour time difference. The appropriately named Jon Snow anchors the live coverage of the spectacle, with 700 athletes due to compete in 45 events at what promises to be the biggest ever paralympic games. (There’s also a timely repeat of excellent drama The Best of Men on BBC2 at 11.05pm, which tells the story of the origins of the Paralympics and stars Eddie Marsan.) Darcey Bussel pops up again to introduce this week’s third ballet special. Fonteyn ’59: Sleeping Beauty (BBC4, 8pm) is a cut-down production of the 1959 broadcast starring Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes. As rock documentaries go, Muscle Shoals: the Greatest Recording Studio in the World (BBC4, 9pm) is lengthy and occasionally patchy but earns its sofa time for the many good bits. The legendary studios in Alabama were (and are) the heart of a racially mixed music scene in the town that gave its name to them. A hotbed of creativity, the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin (above), Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge and many others recorded their hits at Muscle Shoals, run by Rick Hall, a man who overcame appalling circumstances to triumph here. There’s a host of famous contributors and archive footage galore to tell the story of why the studios were so important and why they remain influential today.