Pick of the week
it is a small irony that Jeremy Guscott, a naturally gifted sportsman and one famously disinclined to spend hours training, is to be found in a new series extolling its virtues. But then, few people have Guscott's innate brilliance and for most athletes, as co-presenter Sally Gunnell points out:
"A lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes".
Peak Performance aims to inform young people about the skills and drills that will take them to the top and then keep them there. Guscott and Gunnell tackle diet, training and how to avoid injury in an engaging and accessible way. They are serious about sport, but not so much so that they can't have a laugh too. When Guscott trains with a young cricket team, he looks more than a little mutinous at times. Sally baulks at following one of the UK diving team off the top of the high diving board and who could blame her? Unless you have a very strong head for heights, it's impossible to watch as the UK high diving champion flicks himself over the edge from a handstand, into the pool 20 metres below.
There are plenty of celebrities to make the series sparkle: Gianluca Vialli describes Chelsea's new chef as "the best Italian we've signed in years". And Darren Gough reduces the mysteries of fast bowling to a minute sleight of hand. If only it were so easy.
This is an excellent series for sports enthusiasts: teaching, studying or competing. It also benefits from avoiding stereotypes: the rugby players are girls, there's a mixed cricket team and one of the stars of the London marathon is in a wheelchair. All of which goes to show that whatever you've got, you can make it work better.
Peak Performance, Channel 4, Thursdays till December 2, 10.10-10.30am (rpt next summer)
Computer games for television and PC multiply daily, with ever-more sophisticated graphics, comely heroines and terrifying villains. But who designs them, and how do they work? This term's new Design and Make It! 2 looks at the process, and also follows the herd of pigs who always get the right amount to eat because they have a computer chip in their ears (it controls the nosh in their troughs). Then there are the electronic sound beams that enable handicapped children to make music.
The technology is often bafflingly complex, but the stories are fascinating and should enliven GCSEDesign and Technology study no end.
Design and Make it! 2, Channel 4Fridays, 11-11.15am to December 3.
BEST OF THE REST
Teachers have to learn how to balance books as well as make sure that everyone leaves knowing how to read one. But where does such expertise come from? Given that money management has profound implications for schools, good business skills can be crucial. The Learning Zone has business-linked programmes and now BBC Knowledge has added Business Class, which this week will make sure that your finances are in apple-pie order.
Business Class, BBC Knowledge, Sundays, 10-12 noon