10 TV picks: turning back the clock

Some go back a little way, exploring another era of transport on Channel 5’s Walking Britain’s Lost Railways, others a little further, to the 19th century with Sky Atlantic western The Good Lord Bird and to the Middle Ages with ITV2’s riotous animation, Crossing Swords.

Others go back still further, some 3 million years with Channel 4’s Surviving the Stone Age. All are available to watch now.

The Good Lord Bird - Sky Atlantic

We travel back to the 19th century for The Good Lord Bird, in which Ethan Hawke stars as American abolitionist John Brown.

Based on John McBride’s novel of the same name, the miniseries is told from the point of view of a fictional enslaved boy called Henry who is rescued by Brown and becomes part of his army of abolitionists.

A riotous, irreverent ride, Hawke excels as the real-life revolutionary in a career-best performance.

What they say: ‘A smart, starry treatment of serious historical events that manages to retain a sense of humour without losing heart or gravitas.’ The Independent

Alison Hammond: Back To School - ITV

Alison Hammond travelled across the country - and back in time - to discover the notable black Britons that she wasn’t taught about at school.

A familiar face from ITV’s This Morning, Hammond’s hour-long documentary aired as part of Black History Month and featured key and often overlooked figures from black British history.

‘I asked ITV if I could make a documentary about something that shapes us all - history. And guess what? They said yes,’ she said. ‘Move over Louis Theroux, there’s a new girl in town. Bring on the Bafta!’

What they said: ‘An irrepressible host … A delightful hour in her company.’ Daily Telegraph

Surviving The Stone Age - Channel 4

Eight survival experts were pushed to the limit in this Channel 4 wilderness show which turned back the clock all the way to the Stone Age.

The eight men and women were taken to Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains to see if they could live off the land and survive as well as their distant ancestors did as far back as 3 million years ago.

Clad in animal skins and requiring all off their hunting, tracking and building skills (not to mention an ability to get along with each other) the experts battled hunger, exhaustion and freezing temperatures. Your sofa has never felt so welcoming.

What they say: ‘Hunting and gathering proves to be a struggle even for those who are experts in primitive skills and bushcraft.’ iNews


Walking Britain’s Lost Railways - Channel 5

There’s something mysterious and romantic about the 5,000 miles of railways which once crisscrossed Britain and were closed in the wake of the 1963 Beeching Report.

Engineer Rob Bell has long been fascinated by these vanished lines and is the perfect guide on this historic travelogue, exploring how these railways were built, the ways in which they transformed the landscape and the community and, ultimately, their demise.

The third series begins on Channel 5 on Friday [27 November] starting with north Devon and, in its second episode, travelling to the west coast of Scotland. A trip well worth taking.

What they say: ‘Rob Bell’s series is all the things you want from this kind of television.’ Radio Times

The Comedy Store - Sky Documentaries

A fascinating look at the world’s most famous and influential comedy club, The Comedy Store.

This five-part documentary brings the iconic Los Angeles club to life with a mixture of never seen before footage and interviews with the people who made it famous, including Jim Carrey, Richard Pryor, Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Rock.

A fascinating look at the serious business of comedy, it’s a tremendous nostalgia rush and very, very funny.

What they say: ‘A love letter to the Comedy Store … The archival footage of performances from all of the Comedy Store stages is remarkable.’ Hollywood Reporter

Crossing Swords - ITV2

Crossing Swords is a journey back to the Middle Ages as you’ve never seen them before.

The stop-motion animated series stars Nicholas Hoult as the voice of good-hearted Patrick whose dream job as a squire at the royal castle quickly turns sour.

Laugh out loud and strictly for adults only, it’s been described as ‘the horniest stop-motion animated comedy series ever to be set in a medieval fantasy landscape’.

What they say: ‘Gross-out, sexed-up, over-the-top comedy … A delightfully lewd package.’ Collider

Britain’s Historic Towns - Channel 4

Professor Alice Roberts explores the history of Britain through the stories of its towns and cities.

Each episode focuses on one location at a particular time in its history, from Chester’s Roman amphitheatre to ‘hunting’ deer at dawn in the New Forest in the footsteps of William I.

In the third series now airing on Channel 4, she visits medieval Lincoln, restoration London and naval Portsmouth, using their unique past to help tell the story of a nation.

What they say: ‘The engaging Alice Roberts is back for a wander around notable British towns.’ The Guardian

Abandoned Engineering - Yesterday

Abandoned Engineering returns to the scene of extraordinary feats of engineering that have fallen into disrepair and tells their story from their beginning to the present day.

Back for a new series on Yesterday, it takes viewers to the scene of some of the most spectacular examples of abandoned engineering all over the world.

Abandoned Engineering examines how they were built and why they failed, the costs of that failure and the attempts to create something beautiful from their ruins.

What they say: ‘Ambitious engineering projects that have been left in ruins.’ Radio Times

Leonardo: The Works - Sky Arts

Everything you wanted to know about Leonardo da Vinci but didn’t have the time - or the money - to see for yourself.

Leonardo: The Works takes viewers to the world’s greatest galleries and museums for an extraordinary virtual exhibition of his work.

Taking a forensic look at his paintings with expert analysis from art critics and historians, you’ll look at da Vinci in a whole new light.

What they say: ‘A magnificent tour of the masterpieces … As gallery films go, this is pretty monumental.’ The Guardian

Being the Queen - National Geographic

Being the Queen tells the story of Elizabeth II and her extraordinary reign as it has never been told before.

The National Geographic documentary uses fascinating archive material and never before heard interviews to take viewers into the heart of the royal circle.

From Her Majesty’s coronation in 1953 to the present day, Being The Queen explores the most important and challenging moments of her reign.

What they say: ‘A must-watch for all those fascinated with the monarchy.’ TV Guide

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