Sally-Anne Stewart’s TV Preview: 16.09.11

DARK Tudor tale Wolf Hall took the literary world by storm – it won the Booker Prize in 2009 and propelled its author, historical novelist Hilary Mantel, to stardom. Word is it’s also set to be made into a movie, which seems to pretty much be the benchmark of a book’s success nowadays.

Mantel is an interesting figure, and I’ve got her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, lined up to read after I’ve made it through the weighty A Place of Greater Safety, her fictionalisation of events leading up to the French Revolution. While enjoyable, after a long day I tend to fall asleep after two pages, so progress is slow.

Culture Show Special: Hilary Mantel (BBC2, Saturday, September 17, 8pm) will give an insight into her turbulent childhood and her battle with a debilitating illness, something that makes her achievements all the more remarkable.

> The latest episode of Michael Wood’s Story of England (BBC4, Saturday, September 17, 8pm) sees the historian tackle The Great Famine and the Black Death. The six-part series has Wood tracing the whole of England’s history through the Leicestershire village of Kibworth, with the help of its present day inhabitants, who have turned historical detectives.

He finds that the 14th century saw two thirds of the village’s population lost to the plague, and how the tragedy forged a community spirit that lasts to this day.

> A funny thing, Spiral (BBC4, Saturday, September 17, 9pm and 9.50pm).

My toughest, most no-nonsense girlfriend said she had to turn it off as it was too gruesome, while my mother-in-law, the biggest softie I know, absolutely loves it. Anyway, it’s a gritty French detective series that doesn’t pull its punches, so brace yourself for this double bill. The murder inquiry takes a disturbing turn when the victim’s sister is also discovered dead.

> Grand Designs (Channel 4, Sunday, September 18, 7pm) this week features its longest-ever running project.

In 2006, Stefan and Annia began work on transforming a derelict Georgian mill cottage into a contemporary family home, but seemingly had little idea of the realities of the work. Reconstructing the water mill and including a steel and glass atrium soon blew their £250k budget.

> I wonder if there’s a corner of the globe that’s uncharted by BBC documentaries?

I don’t think there can be, otherwise they surely wouldn’t send the same old faces off to cover the same ground again? Would they? Anyway, enough of my griping. A South American Journey with Jonathan Dimbleby (BBC2, Sunday, September 18, 8pm) is a new three-parter looking at the ‘changing social and economic climate’ of the continent.

He starts off in Chile to find out about life there since the end of Pinochet’s rule, and then heads across the Andes to Bolivia, where he’ll get in the ring with a pair of wrestling twin sisters.

At least that’s somewhere a BBC presenter has never been before.

> I can’t really see who’s going to win by the BBC and ITV scheduling the first episodes of the new (and final in one case) series of Spooks and Downton Abbey (Sunday, September 18, 9pm).

Surely viewing figures would be higher for both if they were on at different times?

And viewers could enjoy both. This has annoyed me so much that I won’t be watching either.