Chill of climate change

3rd November 2006 at 00:00
The highlights of this week's radio and television

Planet Earth. BBC1, Sunday, November 5, 9-10pm

David Attenborough returns with six new films about our planet, starting in the chilly polar regions. We see whales feeding, penguins on the ice and a fight for life between a polar bear and walruses. The technical achievement of the series is impressive and rightly celebrated in the 10-minute Planet Earth Diary that follows each episode. But this week's film has another message, namely that the polar bear's habitat is melting away as a result of global warming.

Perhaps the next series of Planet Earth, instead of showing us the marvels of our home in the universe and the beauty of our environment, should concentrate on the mess we are making of it: landfill sites, minefields, vast dumps for computers and household appliances, the rainforest, Chernobyl and the shrinking, polluted Aral Sea.

The Innocence Project. BBC1, Thursday, November 9, 8-9pm

There must surely be some significance in the number of these drama series about the righting of old wrongs: do we doubt our judicial system? We have had teams led by Trevor Eve (Waking the Dead) and Amanda Redman (New Tricks) going back over old cases and bringing to justice criminals who thought they had got away with their crimes or, occasionally, releasing prisoners who have been unjustly convicted. The objective has been to give honest employment to superannuated actors who might otherwise turn to crime, pantomime or commercials.

Now, The Innocence Project, inspired by schemes at some American universities, has a young cast, all with clean records, judiciously assorted in terms of gender and ethnic origin, playing law students eager to help the Criminal Cases Review Commission look into questionable convictions. Should TES readers care? Well, unlike the old lags of New Tricks, who are always rushing furiously around the countryside, these boys and girls spend most of their time debating fine points of law, which makes this an educational piece of television (if slightly dull).

Into the West. BBC2, Saturday, November 4, 9-10pm

Steven Spielberg's epic new series, about a tragic clash of cultures, follows the fortunes of two families in America during the 19th century. On the one hand we have the Wheelers, an aptly-named family of wheelwrights from Virginia who are heading west in search of the good life. Already there to greet them are a group of Lakota Indians, who are about to have the good life taken away from them. As you would expect from Spielberg, there is an involving story, magnificent scenery and a message. The director talks about the project earlier on the same evening in The Culture Show (BBC2, 7-8pm) and looks back over his career.

Young Chorister of the Year. BBC Radio 2, Sunday, November 5, 8-9pm

Four boys and four girls, chosen among hundreds, perform in Westminster Abbey in front of celebrity judges, and we hear from Laura Wright, last year's winner. Earlier in the evening, in The Choir (BBC Radio 3, 6.30-8pm), Aled Jones introduces a concert by the 2005 Choir of the Year and talks about this year's competition which reaches its final in Cardiff on December 10; in the same programme, he also looks at the growing popularity of girls' choirs: it all reminds us that the church choir is heir to a long, living tradition. On the same day (1-2pm), BBC Radio 3 turns the pages of The Eton Choirbook, compiled around 1500, a unique source of music from that period. Shut your eyes and you can tell why there are supposed to be choirs in heaven.

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