Robin Buss's pick of the week

20th May 2005 at 01:00
Techno: Designing Your Future

BBC2, Wednesday, May 25, 4-6am, and Thursday, May 26, 4-5:20am

This is a two-part series for 11 to 14-year-olds about the process of design and the creation of products. Viewers are shown how technological advances can improve life in a range of fields, from food to flood defences. The second batch of programmes asks young designers to come up with their own innovative designs for use in the home and considers some less imminent future developments, such as sticky tape that will allow you to walk on ceilings. Other overnight technology programmes on the same channel and for the same age group this week include Techno: Designers (May 25, 2-3.40am), Techno: Making It (May 26, 2-3.40am) and Techno: ICT in the Real World (May 26, 5.20-5.40am). Plenty of Vorsprung durch Technik there.

Primary History: Tudor Life

BBC2, Thursdays to June 14

A series for seven to nine-year-olds being repeated this term, which is available in a Video Plus pack (pound;37.99 from Customer Services, tel: 0870 830 8000); and you can find a website ( which, in the literature, promises users the chance to explore streets and houses of the Tudor period - though on my visit, I failed to find anything like that on the site; you may have better luck. The films tell the stories of typical citizens of the time: a young girl, a yeoman, a housewife, a merchant and an actor; they also visit some places that have survived from the 16th century.

Impressionism: Revenge of the Nice

C4, Monday, May 23, 10.05-11.50am

Matthew Collings traces the history of Impressionism from Courbet to Cezanne via Manet and Monet, to remind us that what we now see as safe and pretty was once revolutionary - and why, in his view, the "profound niceness" of Impressionism is superior to the "institutionalised insincerity" of today's "jokey avant garde". The argument is interesting, the history of the movement is clearly told and the programme as a whole would be unreservedly recommended for its target audience of 14 to 19-year-olds if only Collings were a bit surer about his pronunciation of French names. As it is, it might be safer not to let modern language students watch the programme until after their oral exams.

Junior Mastermind

BBC2, Friday, May 20, 7-7.30pm

The last of the heats in this year's contest takes place this evening, with the final tomorrow. The pattern is the same as for the grown-up version: 10 to 11-year-olds answer questions on a specialist subject for two minutes, followed by a further two minutes on general knowledge, with the usual rules about passes and "I've-started-so-I'll-finish". These juniors are just as impressive as the best of the adults in their ability to produce answers on obscure subjects with confidence and a high degree of accuracy.

Before the second round, John Humphrys asks each contestant about his or her choice of specialist subject, and they do a good job of defending even such topics as television sitcoms or the films of Hayao Miyazuki. So well, in fact, that you may feel being able to argue the case for The Vicar of Dibley is a more significant achievement than being able to answer questions on it.

Full listings can be found at:


* www.channel4.comlearningmainprogrammestv_schedule.htm

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