Robin Buss's pick of the week

26th November 2004 at 00:00
Hard Spell Abbey

BBC1, Monday to Friday, November 29 to December 3 4.10-4.40pm

CBBC Channel, Monday to Friday, November 29 to December 3, 8.30-9am

This spelling bee is part of the BBC's "Hard Spell" initiative, broadcast all week in an attempt to undo what the tabloid press believes has been a conspiracy by English teachers since the 1960s to prevent children from learning how to write proper English. It is also an interesting example of television families: the daddy was in Fort Boyard - a game show in which adult contestants performed tasks given them by a jailer on an island fortress off the French coast. This beget Maths Mansion - the schools programme in which children had to solve problems provided by a question-master in a Gothic mansion. Now we meet the latest offspring of the genre, set in a medieval monastery where friendly Brother Brendan tests six young people's orthographic talents. Should keep us spellbound.


BBC2, Wednesday, December 1, 5-5.30am

The commentary sums up the message of this half-hour programme: "HIV is not a faraway problem." This is for two reasons: first, there's an increasing number of infected people in this country, including the anonymous school children here who talk about the effect on their lives. Second, we live in a world where the problems of distant places are only a plane-ride away.

The film shows young people talking about attitudes to Aids, then travels to Rwanda to show the effects of genocide and Aids in a country where many families have an adolescent as their oldest member, and where the cost of a mobile phone can buy a year's schooling for a child. This should provoke discussion.

Extra: German (Series 3)

C4, Wednesday, Tuesdays, November 24 and 30, December 1, 4-4.25am

This is another chance to see three episodes from this soapy German-language series for 14 to 19-year-olds, starting with "Jobs for the Boys". Nic and Sam are looking for work and Nic is auditioning for a Shakespearean role, which turns out to be less glamorous than you might expect. There are lots of grammar points, including imperatives, modal verbs, adjectives and negatives, all sweetened with a jolly story. The other two episodes being broadcast are "Anna Protests" and "Football Crazy".

The Mix: Wagner's Ring

C4, Tuesday, November 30, 4.25-4.55am

A brilliant introduction for seven to 11-year-olds to Richard Wagner's operatic cycle exploring the story and the background, with a good helping of the music. The teachers' notes (on www.channel4.comlearning) explain the opera and myth (a cross-curricular link there), together with a brief biography of the composer and some information about the concept of Romanticism in music.

Fungus the Bogeyman

BBC1, Sunday, November 28, 5.55-6.45pm

A mixed-media adaptation of Raymond Briggs's slimy tale, with animation for Fungus and family (wife Mildew, daughter Mould and son Mucus), and live action for the altogether more hygenic upstairs world of the human Drycleaners (played by Martin Clunes and Fay Ripley).

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