Martial arts Sherwood style leave much to be desired
Robin Hood BBC1, Saturday, October 7, 7.05-7.50pm
This much-heralded production gives us the Sherwood bowman as martial arts hero. Robin returns from the Holy Land, with a conscience about what he's been up to, a tear in his manly eye and a Saracen bow that can shoot a man a mile off. He finds the nasty Sir Guy of Gisborne occupying his estate and fleecing the peasants: we know that Sir Guy is a baddie by his black polyester jerkin (the well-dressed Merrie Man favours natural fibres).
Robin, who can also aim four arrows between the splayed fingers of a sherriff's hand at any distance, escapes from Sir Guy by leaping off a first-floor landing, doing a backward somersault in the process. A tall tale, to be taken with a bushel or two of salt, methinks.
Wide Sargasso Sea BBC4, Monday, October 9, 9-10.30pm
To complement the BBC1 adaptation of Jane Eyre, here is the other side of the Rochester story: Jean Rhys's prequel recounts the meeting of young Edward Rochester with his first wife, ultimately to become the pyromaniac in the attic. Edward (Rafe Spall) arrives in Jamaica around 1830 to make his fortune. There he meets and, in the tropical heat of the island, soon marries the young Creole, Antoinette Cosway (Rebecca Hall). However, the relationship sours. Flourishing amid the rich vegetation are rumours about the young woman's background, inspired by jealousy and resentment.
Rochester, too, turns out to be less of a catch than he seemed on his first appearance on the screen.
This is the 20th century's answer to one of the great 19th-century romances. In Jane Eyre, the power of Jane's simple goodness saves Rochester from his demons and the couple is assumed to have a happy future in a marriage that is a meeting of equal minds, after Jane's triumphant:
"Reader, I married him!". Rhys's version sees this kind of romantic love as pure illusion, with men and women drawn to one another by passion, but divided by an unequal society. Marriage, the socialization of passion, can only drive them further apart, to the detriment of the woman who, in this case, will lapse into the very madness that her husband has predicted for her. The adaptation of Rhys's novel makes good use of the Jamaican landscape and gives a convincing picture of the island's society shortly after the emancipation of the slaves. Viewers should be warned, however, that it includes some nudity and a lot of fairly explicit heaving around on beds.
Betrayal: A Man for All Seasons BBC Radio 4, Saturday, October 7, 2.30-4pm
Charles Dance and Brian Cox head a terrific cast in this abridged version of Robert Bolt's play about the struggle between Henry VIII and Sir Thomas More over the legitimacy of the King's divorce: though a bit over-kind to More, who comes across as a 20th-century dissident rather than a 16th-century religious fanatic, it could make a good introduction to the Holbein exhibition at Tate Britain. And, on the subject of exhibitions, you could do worse than listen to Gormley on Rodin (Radio 4, Tuesday, October 10, 11.30am-12noon) before heading to the Royal Academy's current show.
Horizon: Chimps Are People Too BBC2, Tuesday, October 10, 9-9.50pm
Chimpanzees and humans share more than 99 per cent of DNA, and campaigner Danny Wallace believes that they should be accorded the same rights as humans; however, Danny is not a scientist and many experts - including some who have demonstrated the remarkable abilities of primates - disagree. This week's Horizon raises some fascinating philosophical, ethical and legal questions.