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Television: Pick of the week

Royal Institution Christmas Lectures

C4 Monday-FridayJanuary 12-16, 10.40-11.30am

This year's series of lectures, "Voyage in Space and Time", is being given by astronomer Dr Monica Grady of the Natural History Museum. It explores some of the really big questions: the origin of the planets, the existence of life elsewhere in the universe, our own planet's chances of survival.

Originally broadcast on Channel Four around the New Year, the lectures coincided with the Mars landing of the European probe Beagle 2, and the Red Planet is the focus of the final part, which explores not only the possibility of life on Mars, but also the reasons why our own planet has proved receptive to life.

The Christmas Lectures are always excellently presented and enjoyable to watch, but this year's set should be particularly appealing to the target audience of 12 to 16-year olds, and dazzle their minds with the wonder of it all.

Tate Modern

C4 Mondays-Fridays, January 12-16 (11.55am-12noon), 26-30 (10.55-11am) and February 2-6 (10.40-10.45am)

A repeat of a highly informative series on modern art, designed for 14 to 19-year olds. Each five-minute programmes takes a different theme (distortion, abstraction, war, still lifeI) and looks at how artists have dealt with it in pictures from the collections of Tate Modern. An education for the eye and the mind.

Animated Tales of the World

C4 Tuesdays and Wednesdays January 13-March 24, 5.30-5.45am

An enjoyable start to the year with a repeat of this series of animated films from around the world, beginning with a Chinese tale of a boy and a magic paintbrush, followed by another 23 wise and wonderful stories from as many countries, made using different techniques and widely different styles by animators. They are designed for language work with 7 to 11-year olds; but they could have applications across a much wider age and subject range (as 4Learning has discovered with versions for modern languages dubbed in French, German and Spanish).

Spook Squad

CBBC1 Wednesdays, 4.30-5.10pm

Something for the children to watch when they get back from school on these long, chilly winter evenings, as they join a team of three ghost hunters at the spooky Scottish castle owned by the eccentric professor who is having trouble with one of his ancestors, Lord Alfred MacAbre. No, there isn't a prize for guessing where clan MacAbre gets its name, but if the team succeeds in overcoming the various other challenges that the ghost throws at them, the castle may be freed of his presence. Otherwise, they are in for some nasty shocks. It's all a bit like Maths Mansion, though with less maths.

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