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Here’s our pick of forthcoming TV shows

Saturday 23/01/15

The Girl Who Forgave the Nazis (Channel 4, 8pm)

Rachael Popow

January 27 is Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK, a time for us to remember the victims of the Nazis, as well as those who lost their lives in other genocides across the world.

But while we seem to be in agreement that it’s vital that we never forget these atrocities, the question of forgiveness has proved much more controversial. It’s also the issue at the heart of The Girl Who Forgave the Nazis, which looks at one of the last stories to emerge from the horrors of the Holocaust.

It focuses on the 2015 trial of Oskar Groening, a 94-year-old Auschwitz accountant, whose duties including counting the money and belongings confiscated from prisoners. However, what really thrust the case into the headlines were the actions of Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, 81, who publicly forgave him and even embraced him in court.

Her decision was all the more extraordinary given her own tragic story. Born in Romania in 1934, she lost almost all of her family in Auschwitz, and along with her twin sister Miriam, she was subjected to horrific medical experiments at the hands of the notorious Doctor Mengeles. In later life, the siblings would establish the organisation Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors (Candles).

For some people, that made her gesture of forgiveness all the more moving. Although it ultimately made no difference to the outcome of the trial - Groening was found guilty of being an accomplice to the mass murder of 400,000 Jews and sentenced to four years in prison - the image of their hug went viral.

She would later say: “I don’t forget what they have done to me. But I am not a poor person - I am a victorious woman who has been able to rise above the pain and forgive the Nazis.”

This programme explores Groening’s story with the help of prosecutor and Nazi-hunter Gunther Feld, and also explores the remarkable journey that led Eva to the courtroom.

However, the documentary also looks at how her actions provoked criticism and anger from other survivors, including fellow plaintiffs in Groening’s case.

It hears from some the last Holocaust survivors living in Britain, who, like Eva, lost their families at Auschwitz. They talk about how they continue to be haunted by their experiences, and why for some of them, Eva’s actions felt like a betrayal of the memory of their loved ones.

There are no easy answers, but the film aims to explore a difficult issue, while also paying testament to survival against the odds and the persistence of humanity.

There will be other chances to reflect across the week, as on Wednesday at 7pm, BBC2 broadcasts Holocaust Memorial Day, featuring coverage of the commemoration at Guildhall, London. The ceremony includes personal testimony, music and poetry, with actors Sheila Hancock, Robert Lindsay, Kevin Whately and Freddie Fox taking part.

On the same day, BBC1 brings us Children Saved from the Nazis: A Hero’s Story, which looks at the inspirational life of Nicholas Winton, who rescued 669 children from the Nazis.

Sunday 24/01/16

James May’s Cars of the People (BBC2, 9pm)

Richard Jones

A lot has changed since James May’s first three-part series examining the social significance of affordable automobiles in the 20th century aired on BBC2.

On its debut in August 2014, the show was originally plugged as a spin-off from Top Gear.

But as May, and his two co-hosts Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond have subsequently gone onto other projects (including a new series for Amazon Video due out late this year), for well-publicised reasons, this is now all May’s own work.

And it’s good to see him back on the Beeb after his stint on documentary show Building Cars Live last year.

The first series of Cars of the People was criticised in some circles, with some saying May’s ‘Jezza’ impressions, daft stunts and tongue-in-cheek borderline racism made it a bit too much like Top Gear.

However, amongst all that familiarity, there was actually a rather enjoyable and richly researched series about the history of everyday cars.

What’s refreshing about this programme is that the motors featured will never be tested on the likes of Top Gear.

Why? Because none have a top speed of 200mph or a pice tag of £100,000.

Indeed, for all the Veyron and Ferrari supercars and prototypes paraded on Top Gear, most viewers of that show will only ever drive runabouts and family cars. That’s all we need and the most we can afford.

So here May continues to focus our sights on the sharp end of the car market, and celebrates the transport of the masses, the everyday cars that were created to get whole nations on the move.

While some have been beloved motoring icons (the Mini and the VW Beetle), some have become objects of derision, like the Lada and Austin Allegro.

May told “It has been an automotive riot, and a revealing one: weeks of travelling the world driving almost exclusively cr*p cars.”

Tonight, May kicks off the new series with a look at how the car industry in Germany and Japan blossomed following the Second World War.

Japanese car makers Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and Isuzu, and their German counterparts Volkswagan Mercedes, Porsche, Audi and BMW played their part in the countries becoming manufacturing giants that far outstripped the Allied nations that had just defeated them.

James test-drives some of the vehicles that Germany and Japan produced during the post-war period, as well as an assortment of other classic cars, including Jaguar E-Types and Ford Mustangs, and asks: which are the best?

He also reveals the sad tale of the aforementioned Austin Allegro, which has occasionally been labelled ‘the worst car of all time’.

Launched in 1973 - with its now-famous Quartic (or square) steering wheel - the Allegro has become emblematic of Britain’s darkest car-making hour during the decade.

Nevertheless, one company is now hiring Allegros out to do “ironic” tours of the Cotswolds.

Time heals all wounds, it would appear.

A saying that hopefully applies to May as he continues his work on his former full-time home - the BBC - tonight, presenting an hour packed full of information, comedy and cars.

Not a bad way to while away a Sunday evening before Chris Evans’ new incarnation of Top Gear revs up in May this year.

Monday 25/01/16

Mary Berry’s Foolproof Cooking (BBC Two, 8.30pm)

Sarah Morgan

You just can’t keep a good woman down, which perhaps explains why Mary Berry is back on the box this week - not just once, but twice.

She will be judging, alongside regular cohort Paul Hollywood, the efforts of a variety of famous faces who have agreed to take part in the new run of The Great Sport Relief Bake Off, which begins on Wednesday.

But before then, we can catch her in action in this offering, one that takes us back to basics.

Many TV cooks have, over the years, attempted to teach the nation to do more than just open a tin of beans, and they’ve done it with varying degrees of success. We reckon Mary will turn out to be the best of the lot.

Rather than going through such mundane tasks as boiling an egg or cooking pasta the right way, she offers handy practical tips on how to prepare simple but tasty and quick recipes that will keep everyone at home happy - and even serve you well if you’re organising a dinner party for family or friends.

Commissioning editor Tom Edwards says: “Mary is one of the ultimate icons of cookery programming. It’s a delight to serve her latest offering to a BBC Two audience.

“This series connects with something that is essential to Mary - delicious food, made foolproof.”

Sadly, Mary’s TV career hasn’t been foolproof of late. Hollywood attempted to take the Bake off to, er, Hollywood, when he made The American Baking Competition in 2013, but it bombed, never to rise again.

Mary followed in his footsteps late in 2015 with The Great Holiday Baking Show, which aped our own offering as closely as it could. It should have had ‘success’ written all over it, but instead it received the same kind of reception as Hollywood would give a tart with a soggy bottom - it lost almost a million viewers in a week.

Despite this setback, Mary is still keen on bringing her homespun wisdom to as many people as possible - and it seems that, if she is attracted to a project, she will grab it with both hands. It’s an approach she credits to a three-month spell she had in hospital after contracting polio as a child; she claims that being away from her family toughened her up and inspired her to make the most of every opportunity.

Mary will turn 81 in March, an age when many people are slowing down and enjoying their retirement. Instead, she heads back into the kitchen - something that delights her army of fans.

In the first edition of this series, she regales viewers with memories of her life, family and friends while demonstrating how to prepare five dishes suitable for special days and celebrations, including salmon fillets with herbs and red pepper and a side dish of spiralised vegetables as well as an indulgent treat of lobster tails with aioli and asparagus.

And if you forget the instructions, as you might have already guessed, Mary has written a book to accompany the series, which is published on Thursday.

Tuesday 26/01/16

The Real Marigold Hotel (BBC2, 9pm)

Rachael Popow

The comedy drama The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel had an impressive cast, including Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith, but that wasn’t the only reason it became a box-office smash.

The plot, which follows a group of British retirees who are out to make their pensions stretch further by moving to India, clearly struck a chord with cinema-goers.

In fact, the movie was so successful it resulted in a sequel entitled (what else?) The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and this new three-part travel documentary series.

The premise seems rather familiar - a bunch of very recognisable senior citizens are heading to India to see if they could also have a more rewarding retirement there than in the UK.

Our adventurers are actress Miriam Margolyes, dancer Wayne Sleep, actor Sylvester McCoy, comedian Roy Walker, chef Rosemary Shrager, darts champion Bobby George, singer Patti Boulaye and former news reader Jan Leeming, and they’ll be taking up residence in Jaipur, capital of the state of Rajasthan in Northern India.

They’ve been lined up with a ‘haveli’, an Indian private mansion, but the other arrangements will be left to them as they decide on how they’ll get around, how they’ll spend their time, and whether they will divide the chores up amongst themselves or hire staff.

It seems likely Rosemary will be earmarked for some of the cooking, while Miriam admits she’d already decided on her own role: “I hoped it was to be, as I often am in a group, the form wag - the class clown.”

But that doesn’t mean the actress, whose credits include everything from Blackadder to Harry Potter, wanted to hog the spotlight, as she also enjoyed getting to know the rest of the group: “I really liked my fellow travellers; I marvelled at their talents.

“Bobby is a remarkable man, Wayne is deeply generous and gifted, Patti is a brilliant singer - and I got to know the others, who shared their private thoughts with me. I hope to know them all my life to come.”

She also relished the chance to experience India. “In one day, we visited both the slums and the palace of the royal family in Jaipur. The slums were filthy on the outside, stinking and cramped. But the life there, the teeming, smiling, vivid life we saw, the puppet masters full of colour and imagination, real artists - that made it memorable and enjoyable.”

So, it sounds like she enjoyed her trip, but will she consider making the move permanently? And how did the rest of the celebrities cope?

In this first episode, they are initially somewhat unsettled by the realities of the heat, the hectic roads and the toilet facilities.

Rosemary is finding it particularly hard to unwind, but she gets some surprising results when she tries meditation for the first time, while Wayne is also keen to get in touch with his spiritual side.

But it’s when the celebrities throw a party to meet their new neighbours that they really start to feel at home...

Wednesday 27/01/15

The Great Sport Relief Bake Off (BBC1, 8.30pm)

Rachael Popow

It may have started with little fanfare on BBC Two back in 2010, but now The Great British Bake Off is officially a TV phenomenon.

The final was the most-watched programme of 2015, with a peak of 14.5 million viewers tuning in to watch Nadiya Hussain be crowned the winner.

However, some people realised just how massive Bake Off had become in February last year, when they looked at the line-up for the Comic Relief celebrity specials, and realised that it was made up of people they had actually heard of. Those four episodes were won by Jennifer Saunders, Gok Wan, Martin Sheen and Victoria Wood, with judge Mary Berry ultimately picking Wood as the overall champion.

This year’s all-star offering is just as impressive - the one name that might have initially had people scratching their heads is Geri Horner, until it was explained that it’s the married name of one-time Ginger Spice Geri Halliwell.

She’s not the only former girl group member taking up the challenge, as Girls Aloud’s Kimberley Walsh and ex-Eternal singer Louise Redknapp are also putting on their pinnies in a good cause.

Other celebrities venturing into the tent over the next four weeks include award-winning actress Alison Steadman, comedian and actor Ade Edmondson, singer Will Young, journalist and war reporter John Simpson, Only Connect presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell, former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and, from the world of football, Jermaine Jenas and Chris Kamara.

But arguably the most high-profile name of all appears in this first episode - business woman and wife of the Prime Minister Samantha Cameron.

As you’d expect, she has her husband and children’s support, which could be a good omen. David Cameron told Stylist magazine: “We backed Nadiya (Hussain) to win in the last series. We’re hoping our support will have the same effect on Sam when she appears on The Great Sport Relief Bake Off.”

He’s unlikely to consider rolling up his sleeves and joining her to whip up a batch of eclairs though. He added: “I don’t envy her. I’d rather fight an election than make pastry from scratch.”

We’ll get to assess Samantha’s skills here, as she and fellow star bakers comedian Jason Manford, EastEnders actress Maddy ‘Nancy Carter’ Hill and ex-England goalkeeper David James are challenged to make 24 canapes using rough puff pastry.

After that, Mary and fellow judge Paul Hollywood unveil the dreaded technical challenge, which is once-against pastry-based - they have to whip up a Paris Brest.

The name alone should give presenter Mel Giedroyc some prime innuendo-opportunities, but sadly, due to other filming commitments, Sue Perkins isn’t the there to help her. However, the contestants will get a chance to let their imaginations run riot when they create their showstoppers - a 3D cake in the shape of a sporting trophy.

Future editions will be presented by comedians Ed Byrne, Sarah Millican and Jennifer Saunders.

Thursday 28/01/16

Jericho (ITV, 9pm)

Sarah Morgan

When it comes to period drama, Jessica Raine is British TV’s go-to woman.

Okay, so she has been known to pop up in modern-day projects, such as Fortitude and Line of Duty, but much of the rest of her work has seen her in costumes from across the ages - she has the likes of Garrow’s Law, Wolf Hall, Partners in Crime and, of course, Call the Midwife on her CV.

Even her episode of Doctor Who was set in the 1970s!

In Jericho, Raine has journeyed back to the 19th century to play Annie Quaintaine, a fiery and determined widow who has set up a B&B at the site of a bridge-building project in the wilds of Yorkshire. It’s a role she enjoyed getting her teeth into.

“I thought a lot about the day-to-day rituals of food, and tried to find Victorian recipes and the equipment they had,” says the actress. “By the time we meet Annie, of course, she has nothing so would have had to make do with what she had.

“Most of the research I could get my hands on was very much from the male perspective, about the navvies and the building of the viaducts, the awful sacrifice a lot of men made to building it. All incredibly interesting, but it made me keen to show the female perspective truthfully from this time.”

Annie is a true survivor, but she surprises herself during the course of the programme by actually embracing and enjoying a rough and ready lifestyle she would never have dreamed of as the wife of a schoolmaster.

“Having decided to open lodgings, she is pretty determined to keep up her lifestyle of fine china saved from the family house, and good manners, which in a town like Jericho would seem pretty irrelevant,” explains Raine. “I love how she tries to keep up that side of her life and wants the children to keep reading their books. Her life has clearly taken a turn for the worse - in the eyes of Victorian society - but she refuses to be beaten by it.

“At first she is determined to make money so she can leave Jericho but pretty quickly sees how liberating life in Jericho can be. Annie discovers she is actually a very capable business woman and Jericho is the only place that that could have been made possible.”

Raine must be sent hundreds of scripts every year, so what made Jericho stand out from the crowd?

“The sense of something different. A period drama with a bit of grit to it, a frontier town rising from the dust, a woman surviving against all odds and a cracking thriller amongst it all. It’s so full of vivid characters and stories, which is all you want from a good bit of telly really.”

In this week’s episode, Annie is desperately trying to get back in her son George’s good books after he saw her getting up close and personal with Johnny - who has been shunned by the community following the revelation about his true identity.

Friday 29/01/16

The Last Leg Goes Down Under (Channel 4, 10pm)

Richard Jones

Ever since making his debut presenting The Last Leg during the London 2012 Paralympics, Adam Hills has regularly been the butt of co-stars Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker’s jokes.

Hills isn’t originally from these parts, you see, and his Australian roots have made him an easy target for Widdicombe, Brooker and their guests’ satirical jibes.

Now, after four years of enduring their jokes about his country, Hills finally gets the chance to get his own back on his two English pals and prove to them that Australia isn’t the silly place they thought it was - but is in fact a searing hot, unforgiving hellhole full of people who are hard as nails.

Initially, Widdicombe wasn’t convinced: “I am delighted that Channel 4 gave me the opportunity to confirm my suspicions that Australia is nowhere near as good as the UK.”

To achieve his objective, Adam arranges the toughest Outback itinerary imaginable, with the boys leaving behind the comfort of their studio, for a two-week, 3,000-mile drive from Darwin in the Northern Territories to Hills’ home city of Sydney in New South Wales.

Channel 4 commissioner Syeda Irtizaali said: “We wanted to see what would happen when the gang were pushed from their comfy sofas and into extreme situations in a place that Adam believes he knows intimately.

“The results are as hilarious, hazardous and heart-warming as we could have hoped. It makes Crocodile Dundee look like an episode of In the Night Garden.”

They will be guided through their adventures by Amar Latif, a charming and thrill-seeking Scottish travel agent, who also happens to be blind.

He decides to give them a difficult and dangerous road trip as far from their expectations as he can.

In the first of two episodes, the award-winning trio head to Uluru where their fantasies of beaches and sunshine are replaced by camping out with deadly snakes and spiders.

During the trip, the boys also learn a great deal about the other side of Australia, a nation with a steadfast optimism and a dark underbelly.

Adam, Josh and Alex find out a few things about each other too, while turning each encounter into an exciting, poignant and most of all, richly comedic journey.

But how will self-professed Neighbours addict Josh and beer and BBQ aficionado Alex cope as their fantasies of beaches and sunshine are replaced with hunting crocodiles and feral pigs, and facing off with biker gangs?

Alex Brooker said: “I’ve always wanted to go to Australia to have barbecues, visit Ramsay Street and drink Fosters on Bondi Beach.

“We did absolutely none of those things. Instead it was the weeks of swatting flies away from my face and checking under toilet seats for spiders and snakes.

“You know you’re in the wrong place when you can’t even relax on the toilet. I’m not happy.”

As Adam starts to embrace the trip and his Aussie roots, Josh and Alex wonder if a nervous breakdown looms.

Hills says: “I’m not saying they were nervous travellers, but when Alex checked under the toilet seats at Sydney Airport, I knew we were in for an interesting trip. “When Josh arrived with two suitcases, one for his clothes and another for his pillow, I wasn’t sure how long he would last.

“In the end, I saw a side of Australia I’ve never never come across, while Josh and Alex saw parts of me they wish they could forget.”