This week, Paul previews a selection of programmes commemorating the Holocaust…
NEXT WEEK’S TV
THE WINDERMERE CHILDREN
Monday, BBC Two, 9pm
A series of programmes commemorating 75 years since the end of the Holocaust begins with this haunting factual drama. When peace was declared in 1945, the British government agreed to give refuge to 1000 child survivors of the Nazi concentration camps. 300 of them were brought to a wartime housing estate near Lake Windermere. Utterly traumatised, they struggled to acclimatise to liberty and kindness. The counsellors responsible for rehabilitating them soon became aware of how incredibly difficult that task would be. You can never fully recover from such a harrowing ordeal, but hopefully you can live again. A powerful piece, The Windermere Children features a cast of fine young actors plus seasoned pros such as Romola Garai and Iain Glen.
BELSEN: OUR STORY
Tuesday, BBC Two, 9pm
British citizens who survived Belsen return to the site in this starkly descriptive documentary. Although Belsen wasn’t equipped with gas chambers, it was Hell on Earth. Inmates fending for their lives were surrounded by rotting corpses. The stench of death was everywhere. It’s also a horrifying symbol of how The Final Solution unravelled towards the end of the war. A landmark report by journalist Richard Dimbleby, who was there when the British army liberated Belsen, informed the world at large about the full extent of Nazi atrocities. The army were so horrified by what they found, they burned the camp to the ground. Documents such as this ensure that it will always exist. It will never – must never – be forgotten.
AUSCHWITZ UNTOLD: IN COLOUR
Wednesday, Channel 4, 10:30pm
Against a backdrop of subtly colourised archive footage, this immersive film focuses on some of the last remaining Auschwitz survivors. The colourisation aspect isn’t a cheap gimmick. It is, like Peter Jackson’s WWI documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old, a sensitive and effective way of bringing ghosts back to life. The survivors provide devastating accounts of life in the Nazi’s most notorious extermination camp. It was a nightmare reality, a perpetual onslaught of fear and degradation. One woman sums up the appalling uncertainty they endured when she recalls their weekly shower: they never knew if cold water or gas was going to emerge from the showerheads. If it was water, they knew they’d live for at least another week.
FARAGE: THE MAN WHO MADE BREXIT
Wednesday, Channel 4, 9pm
When Nigel Farage agreed to let documentary filmmaker Christian Trumble follow him throughout last year’s disastrous Brexit Party campaign, he presumably considered it a canny PR move. Instead he comes across as a sad, petulant, thin-skinned, gravy-stained opportunist. It’s hilarious, a staggering own goal. Trumble confirms that this amphibious bigot is a career politician who claims he’s anything but; a self-proclaimed man of the people who has repeatedly failed to be elected by them; a privileged member of the elite who presents himself as anti-establishment (the film’s central theme is his desperate need to be accepted by Johnson’s government). Farage has served his ruinous purpose, now he’s surplus to requirements. America, you can have him.
FILM of THE WEEK
THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Monday, Film4, 12:55pm
Directed with typical wit, pace and flair by the great Richard Lester (A Hard Day’s Night; Robin and Marian), this adaptation of Alexander Dumas’ adventure classic is an irresistible piece of entertainment. Our hearty all-for-one heroes are played by Michael York, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain and Frank Finlay, while Charlton Heston wigs out as the dastardly Cardinal Richelieu. Put your feet up and enjoy.
LAST WEEK’S TV
Sunday 19, BBC One
This episode was always going to be an improvement on the howling debacle that preceded it. It couldn’t possibly be any worse. Even so, the Doctor’s encounter with pioneering yet somewhat unsung electrical engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla was a solid episode in its own right. A pleasingly straightforward pseudo historical, it was informative, educational and entertaining. Yes, even that raddled old fascist Lord Reith would’ve grudgingly approved.
Monday 20, BBC One
Peterhead, one of Europe’s biggest fishing ports, is the picturesque location in this textbook observational documentary. The quasi-dramatic narration is amusingly at odds with the unassuming characters who populate the series, but it’s objectively Good Television which provides interesting insight into the everyday lives of hardworking folk. Sure, it made me feel like I’ve wasted my life, but I’m resigned to that.
TRAVELS IN EUROLAND WITH ED BALLS
Thursday 23, BBC Two
How did this happen? Ed Balls, a risible politician who no one liked, is now an affable media personality. The Portillo Effect. These careerists never truly fail or disappear, they just adapt and reinvent themselves. This series does at least attempt to address the scarifying rise of populist far-right parties in Europe, but it’s really just a jolly travelogue with ideas above its station.