Freak Out Channel 4 Thursdays, to August 3, 11pm
A running theme of last night's first edition of Freak Out was the situation where disability becomes an advantage. An amputee stuntman can have artificial limbs convincingly blown off when making a war film, a wheelchair user can get to the front of the queue and collect apologies from people he has bumped into - and it sounds like a joke to say that being deaf can be an advantage in a noisy disco.
In fact, of these three examples, it was the wheelchair user who was the subject of the joke, outrageously exploiting his situation. The four young people in the disco were showing that they really could enjoy the beat and the atmosphere, as well as being able to communicate in sign language across the room instead of having to shout in each other's ears.
Freak Out is a magazine programme about disability with an emphasis on entertainment, which should help to make viewers take a wider view of physical disabilities whether they have them or not. Since it is made by Rapido, the company that brings us Eurotrash, one can expect that good taste may not be a priority in the coming four weeks of the series, but the programmes are likely to appeal to a young audience and their overall effect seems bound to be positive.
An accompanying website, www.fourall.org, includes a database for people with disabilities who would like to work in creative and media fields, Channel 4 programme makers who are prospective employers, and individuals (including teachers) who workwith students or adults with disabilities.
The Road to Riches BBC2 Sundays, July 9 to August 20, 8pm "Like all good stories," Peter Jay says at the start of this history of money, "ours will start at the beginning." This is a shame, really, because the beginning is pretty dull, despite scenes of Jay communing with chimpanzees in a blatant attempt to rival David Attenborough.
Of course, the Neolithic revolution, that moment in prehistory when hunters and gatherers became farmers and herdsmen, was a crucial turning point in human development, without which it is impossible to imagine the growth of complex economic societies; but it is difficult to see how you could make good television from it. Extensive footage of archaeologists scraping away at bits of the Jordan desert seems less like the beginning of the storythan an over-long preface, andeven Jay's journey to find theroots of Sumerian civilisationseems to tell us little about money, while raising some interesting, but unrelated, questions: how did he get permission to film in Iraq? How have conditions changed there since the Gulf War? Wht do ordinary Iraqis think of British film crews wandering around their country?
The second part, to be broadcast next week, is a great deal more to the point. We see some of the earliest coinage, an Athenian silver drachma with an owl on one side - an object with no use-value, but with a symbolic value that allowed it to be used as a means of exchange for goods and services. This, surely, is where the story really begins.
The series continues on July 30 (after a week's break) with medieval trade, the industrial revolution, the economic stability of the 19th century, the world wars and the divisions between rich and poor countries. After a slow start, an increasingly fascinating and educative series.
France Inside Out BBC2 Monday, July 10 and Wednesday, July 12, 4-5am
The Learning Zone, that early-morning slot to which the BBC relegates its schools programmes so that your video recorder can watch them at its leisure, seems determined this week to give us some last-minute revision in French before the summer holidays.
France Inside Out offers a mixture of language and culture, looking at the history of Marseilles, Montpellier and other cities, plus visits to the Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte and to Auvers-sur-Oise (associated with the painter Van Gogh); useful for listening comprehension and brushing up simple phrases.
Also this week in the sameslot is the Open University programme La Bonne Formule (July 11, 6.30-7am), which shows how science is taught in French schools, and Talk French (July 13, 4-5am), a concentrated introduction to everyday conversation, particularly aimed at adult beginners.
Interval: Orient Express, a literaryjourney Radio 3 From Monday, July 10 to Friday July 14, 12 midnight approx
Broadcasting for 20 minutes around midnight every night this week, this is an anthology of stories by writers on the route of the famous Orient Express.
It starts with one of Guy de Maupassant's tales of Norman peasant life and continues with a haunting piece by the Austrian writer Ilse Aichinger. On Wednesday, we reach Italy andthe realist writer Giovanni Verga, who contributes a story offrustrated love in Milan. Thisis followed by a romance involvinga bandit and a shepherd's daughter, by the Bulgarian Yordan Yavkov.
Finally, reaching Turkey and the end of the line, we hear TheMade-to-Order Funeral Orationby Aziz Nesin.
A neat idea, introducing listeners to some enjoyable European short stories from the past 100 years or so, read by actors including Derek Griffiths, Prunella Scales and Julia Ford.
Schools programme listings return on September 8