Television and radio

11th February 2005 at 00:00
Robin Buss's pick of the week

Challenging Christianity; Challenging Beliefs BBC2, Thursday, February 17, 2-6am

Two blocks, each of seven programmes, looking at faith and enquiry, philosophy and ethics. Challenging Christianity involves devising a commercial for Jesus, writing a prayer and retelling a miracle to encourage 11 to 14-year-olds to develop a better understanding of the Christian message. Challenging Beliefs, for 14 to 16-year-olds, takes a broader approach to life, death, morals and religion, inviting students to discuss topics central to all religions, while applying them to their own experience. Next week, we have two new blocks in the same series for RE: Challenging Faith and Exploring Beliefs.

Hopscotch: My Family and Friends BBC Radio 4, Tuesdays, February 15 to March 1, 4.10-4.25am

There have been a number of new programmes for five to seven-year-olds in Hopscotch this term, including the first in this batch of three, about helping other people. A mixture of story, song and sounds is designed to improve listening and encourage discussion about ideas and feelings.

Dance BBC Radio 4, Wednesdays, February 16 to March 16, 3.15-3.35am

The strand for five and six-year-olds continues this term with two new programmes, the first based on the story of a bear who, however much he eats, always wants more, and the second following the life cycle of the frog and the toad (plenty of opportunity to wiggle and jump).

In Search of Myths and Heroes BBC2, Fridays, February 11-25, 9-10pm

Michael Wood, who went looking around central Asia for Alexander the Great, takes on four even more nebulous histories in this series. He started last week with the Queen of Sheba, travelling through the Middle East and Africa to discover traces of someone who probably never existed.

No matter: his slightly breathless commentaries and boyish enthusiasm are engaging. This week, he is looking for the Earthly Paradise, no less.

Mythologised by the writer James Hilton in his 1930s novel, Lost Horizon, Shangri-la was a forgotten city in an inaccessible Himalayan valley - air travel having, in Hilton's day, made it possible to access the inaccessible. Wood, tentatively identifying Shangri-la with the fabled Shambhala of Indian legend, chooses the land route over the mountains into Tibet, where he spends a good deal of time in earnest conversation with Buddhist monks, his commentaries made slightly more breathless by the fact that he is several thousand feet above sea level. The views are stunning.

Next week, he will be cruising the Mediterranean in the hope of finding the Golden Fleece, and his travels end back home in the land of King Arthur.

The travelogue is intercut with readings from the source material and the films mix history, geography, storytelling, religion and mythology, while at the same time offering glimpses of some really enticing holiday destinations.

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