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ERA’s Top TV Picks 22nd December 2018 – 3rd January 2019

Welcome back to our weekly picks of the best TV broadcasts for teaching coming your way this week! As Christmas is almost upon us, this week’s list includes two weeks’ worth of broadcasts in advance – call it a present from us, if you’d like!

Saturday 22nd December

  • Watership Down
    BBC1, 7pm – Recommended for… English
    This animated remake of Richard Adams’ classic children’s novel features a fantastic voice cast, including James McAvoy, Gemma Arterton, John Boyega and Sir Ben Kingsley. The ending has been altered slightly this time around, so there might be a few less tears shed – therefore, it’s potentially a good way of introducing the story to younger pupils.
  • Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas
    BBC4, 11:35pm – Recommended for… Music and Religious Studies
    A lot of great Christmas songs, such as White Christmas and Let It Snow, have been written be Jewish songwriters. This witty documentary features Mel Tormé, Jay Livingston, Gloria Shayne Baker, and Irving Berlin as they explain why the festive season brought out some of their best work.

Sunday 23rd December

  • Ponyo
    Film4, 11am – Recommended for… Film Studies
    A beautifully animated film from Hayao Miyazaki, the director of Spirited Away, a popular choice on many Film Studies courses. This could make for an interesting point of comparison.
  • Casino Royale
    ITV1, 9pm –  Recommended for… Film Studies
    On a similar note, with Skyfall being on the A Level syllabus for Film Studies, taking a look at the beginning of Daniel Craig’s run as 007 could really be of benefit when analysing the later film.

Monday 24th December

  • Zootropolis
    BBC1, 2:55pm – Recommended for… Citizenship and PSHE
    This one is a bit out there, but it’s definitely worth considering. In this Disney adventure, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), the first ever bunny police officer, has teams up with a con man fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) to uncover a conspiracy. On the surface, it’s just fun, but Judy faces a lot of prejudice and discrimination for not being like the rest of the police force, and so this film could be a good way of introducing a topic like that to pupils.
  • Carols from King’s 
    BBC2, 5:50pm – Recommended for… Music and Religious Studies
    This historic event, which takes place every year in King’s College, Cambridge, marks its 100 year anniversary this year. The singers’ harmonization is sure to inspire music students, while the background and reading of the Christmas story might be more applicable for Religious Studies.

Tuesday 25th December

  • The Royal Ballet: Swan Lake
    BBC4, 7pm – Recommended for… Dance
    Whilst The Nutcracker is always a popular choice at this time of year, this Royal Ballet performance of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece is not to be missed!
  • The Great Christmas Bake Off
    Channel 4, 8pm – Recommended for…Catering
    Past favourites from previous series of Bake Off are back this Christmas with some more festive challenges – definitely worth a watch to get inspiration for students.
  • Torvill & Dean 
    ITV1, 9:15pm – Recommended for… Sport, Dance
    Poppy Lee and Will Tudor star in this drama about the eponymous ice-skating legends. Their performance of Bólero is, of course, an important aspect in this programme, but it also gives an insight into the lives behind the two professional skaters.

Wednesday 26th December

  • Saving Mr Banks
    BBC2, 2:30pm – Recommended for… Film Studies, Media Studies and English Literature
    I dare you not to cry during this film. It’s impossible. This is the story of P. L. Travers, author of Mary Poppins, and her working relationship with Walt Disney, who brought it to the big screen as the film we know and love today. However, not everything was smooth sailing, and the story covers the difficulties and intricacies on both sides of producing a book-to-film adaptation. Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks are brilliant in the title roles, and this could be especially thematic, given the release of a sequel to Mary Poppins this month.
  • Royal Institution Christmas Lectures: Who Am I?
    BBC4, 8pm – Recommended for… Philosophy and Biology
    The annual Royal Institution Christmas Lectures are back, this time discussing what it means to be human. Join Alice Roberts and Aoife McLysaght as they explore just where we fit on the tree of life in this first lecture out of three (the next two air on consecutive days).
  • Darcey’s Ballet Heroes
    BBC4, 9pm – Recommended for… Dance
    In this episode, ballerina and Strictly judge Darcey Bussell goes out to show her respect and admiration to male dancers, talking to Irek Mukhamedov and Arthur Mitchell, among others. This might work well as a resource if you’ve got some male students on the fence about taking up dance!

Thursday 27th December

  • Revolting Rhymes
    BBC1, 3:20pm – Recommended for… English
    You can never really go wrong with Roald Dahl, so this adaptation of his book, Revolting Rhymes, which reworks classic fairy tales such as Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk. Fun and imaginative, this is sure to go down a treat.
  • Skyfall 
    ITV1, 8pm – Recommended for… Film Studies
    This is a great chance for students studying this film for Film Studies to catch the film again. Daniel Craig is on top form as 007 in what could arguably be considered one of the best James Bond films of all time. It may not be very festive, but it’s worth a look anyway.
  • The Snow Wolf: a Winter’s Tale
    BBC2, 9pm – Zoology, Biology
    This dramatised wildlife documentary follows an alpha female wolf who finds herself cast out of her pack. From there, she journeys out into the Alps in search of new territory, in the process giving birth to six cubs, which she must now protect.
  • Michael Palin in North Korea: Special Edition 
    Channel 5, 9pm – Recommended for… Geography and Politics
    Following up on the popular series earlier this year, Michael Palin continues his investigation into life in Kim Jong-Un’s secretive country.

Friday 28th December

  • Bugsy Malone
    ITV3,12:50pm – Recommended for… Drama, Music, and Media Studies
    This bizarre, madcap adventure sees kids in the title roles of a gangster film, splurge guns and all! It could make for a really interesting analysis of the genre and how the themes are carried over from its more serious source material.
  • Zog
    BBC1, 3:40pm – Recommended for… English
    This year’s Julia Donaldson adaptation, Zog, follows a young and accident-prone dragon who’s trying to graduate from Dragon School. Kit Harrington and Hugh Skinner lend their voices to this heart-warming tale, which could be a perfect source for a lesson on persistence and trying your hardest.
  • Bend It Like Beckham 
    Film4, 6:45pm – Recommended for… Sport and Religious Studies
    Despite a lot of change in attitudes, there is still some sort of ingrained preconception that woman do not belong in football. That is why this film, which stars Parminder Nagra as Jess, the daughter of an orthodox Sikh family who wants to play football, is as relevant today as it was when it was released back in 2002.
  • Eddie the Eagle
    Channel 4, 8pm – Recommended for… Sport
    Another sport-centric film here, this time starring Taron Egerton as Michael “Eddie” Edwards, an underdog who is due to compete in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Based on a true story, this tale is inspirational and often funny.

Saturday 29th December

  • The Secret World of Emily Brontë
    Channel, 6:05pm – Recommended for… English Literature
    Actress, model, and creative partner of the Brontë Society for 2018, Lily Cole, travels West Yorkshire to visit Emily’s former home and talks about the writer, her work, and her past. There was much controversy surrounding the author of works such as Wuthering Heights, and Cole explores any parallels of the difficulties that she faced back then to the stuggles of women in our contemporary society.
  • Nothing Like a Dame
    BBC2, 7:40pm – Recommended for… Drama
    Renowned actresses (and Dames) Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright, and Eileen Atkins gather together to discuss their lives both on and off screen over the years. With a wealth of shared knowledge and experience between them, this programme is a must for drama students of all levels.

Sunday 30th December

  • E.T. The Extra Terrestrial 
    Channel 5, 2:40pm – Recommended for… Film Studies
    The classic science-fiction film from director Steven Spielberg is a fantastic basis for the study of any sci-fi film. With a cute alien, iconic cinematography, and a catchphrase that will probably last until the end of time, this is also a film of unlikely friendship and how it feels to be lost in the world.
  • Jurassic World 
    ITV2, 5:40pm – Recommended for… Film Studies, Biology
    Another chance for Film Studies students to catch the poplar 2015 reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise here. But why biology, might you ask? Well, in this installment, the people behind the theme park genetically engineer a new species of dinosaur – the implausibilities of this would be a great point of debate with students!
  • Spy in the Snow 
    BBC1, 7pm – Recommended for… Zoology, Biology
    This adorable-looking documentary sees hidden and/or disguised cameras put out into the wild to try and catch the animals that they are filming of-guard. this definitely looks like a good, fun, started documentary on animals.
  • Les Misérables 
    BBC1, 9pm – Recommended for… French, History, and English Literature
    That’s right, Les Mis is back – this time as a six-part drama. Sadly, there will be no singing in this adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, but the extended time span should give the story plenty of time to shine through – a difficult task to accomplish at the best of times, considering that the English translation is approximately 1,400 pages long, and the original French standing at an even heftier 1,900. The story of escaped prisoner Jean Valjean (played here be Dominic West) and those around him over the years, set against the backdrop of revolutionary France is well-known, and this fresh take might be a good way of introducing the revolution to French students.
  • Andrew Davies: Rewriting the Classics
    BBC4, 10:05 – Recommended for… Film Studies, English Literature
    Picking up right on the heels of Les Misérables, this is a documentary about adapting classic novels for the screen. Les Mis is the focus here, but coming at a time of year where Austen and Dickens adaptations are abundant, Davies’ discussion about the process and its difficulties is relevant across the board.

Monday 31st December

  • Big Hero 6
    BBC1, 2:40pm – Recommended for… PSHE, Physics, and Engineering
    Another modern Disney film with a lot to offer in terms of themes. Hiro is a young wannabe scientist, who is pulled into isolation by the loss of his brainy brother, Tadashi. However, with the help of Tadashi’s friends and an adorable, big robot, he finds the strength to carry on and form a team of tech-powered heroes. There’s a lot of cool tech that could be discussed in terms of physics, but the thing that I wanted to underline is that this film could be a really good resource about teaching students about grief and how to move on from the loss of a loved one.
  • Raymond Briggs: Snowmen, Bogeymen and Milkmen
    BBC2, 9pm – Recommended for… English
    Would Christmas be complete without The Snowman? In this documentary, author and illustrator extraordinaire, Raymond Briggs, talks about the inspiration behind his stories as well as his private life.
  • A Day in the Life of Earth
    BBC4, 9pm – Recommended for… Biology and Physics
    Hannah Fry presents this look at Earth from core to outer space over the course of 24 hours. Watch as things grow, shrink, break apart, and come together, as we discover more about the composition of our planet and how it is linked to our survival.
  • Back to the Future
    Film4, 11:35pm – Recommended for… Physics, Film Studies, and Media Studies
    Another classic science-fiction flick, with a wider range of discussion topics to be had – links to films of the past and its influence on the future? Done. Recreating different time periods for the purpose of cinema? Done. The plausibility of time travel in a kitted-out DeLorean? …Kind of.

Tuesday 1st January

  • Amazon: Earth’s Greatest Rivers
    BBC2, 9pm – Recommended for… Geography and Geology
    This is the first in a three part series (episodes two and three airing on the Wednesday and Thursday) exploring some of the planet’s most amazing rivers. Today’s focus is the Amazon, where some cutting-edge camera technology allows the filming crew to go closer and learn more about the creatures that live beneath its surface.

Wednesday 2nd January

  • Jane Eyre
    BBC1, 2:45pm – Recommended for… English Literature
    This more recent adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel brings Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender in as Jane and Mr Rochester. It may not be a spot-on adaptation, but it’s beautifully rendered and the actors charming.
  • The Twinstitute 
    BBC2, 8:30pm – Recommended for… Biology
    This one looks really interesting. Doctors and identical twins Chris and Xand van Tulleken have gathered 30 more sets of twins go head-to-head in a series of experiments to see which method works the best. In this first episode, two sets of twins take a weight loss challenge, where one of the pair does two hours of exercise every day, while the other eats 1,000 fewer calories per day. Which one is the more effective method, then? We’ll just have to tune in to find out.
  • The Truth about Vegans
    Channel 4, 10pm – Recommended for… Catering and Biology
    With veganism on the rise and Veganuary, where people try and stick to a vegan diet for the whole of January, on the horizon, this documentary on veganism is really well timed. Dispatches presenter Moorland Sanders looks into activism, as well as the concerns held by farmers over this increasingly popular way of living.

Thursday 3rd January

  • The Princess Bride
    Channel 4, 12:15pm – Recommended for… English
    Another classic film here, this time for English pupils. William Goldman’s novel can sometimes difficult to digest, so this swashbuckling adventure adaptation starring Carey Elwes and Robin Wright could be a good way to help with overall understanding of the text. Endlessly quotable, it’s inconceivable that anyone would fail to enjoy it!
  • Back in Time for School
    BBC2, 8pm – Recommended for… History
    If, like me, you went to school in South Wales, the chances are you visited St Fagans and sat through a whole class in Victorian style dress. And  if, like me, you’re left-handed, you were probably forced to wear a block on your hand and write (catastrophically) with your right. In that case, be prepared for a series of flashbacks as Sara Cox  and Polly Russell explore what schooling was like over the decades, starting first in 1895.

Friday 4th January

  • Great Expectations
    BBC2, 9pm – Recommended for… English Literature
    This is the final classic novel adaptation that I’m telling you about this time, I promise! There are so many adaptations of Great Expectations, though I’m told that this one, from 1946 and starring John Mills, is the one to beat.
  • The Hunger Games
    Film4, 9pm – Recommended for… English, Film Studies, Politics, and Sociology
    Alright, so I bent the rules a little bit. This really is the final book-to-film adaptation that I’m going to mention, but The Hunger Games is worth a mention. Not only is it a choice for Film Studies, but it has a whole load of themes including politics and fitness, as well as a stellar social critique, that is applicable across the board.