BBC2 Monday, May 17, 8.45-9am
"Robot" comes from the Czech word for work (via Karel Capek's play RUR), so no term could be less appropriate to designate Sporty, Stripy, Spotty and the rest, who spend their time inventing games to while away the odd quarter of an hour. Fortunately, all play and no robota doesn't make Rusty a dull 'bot, and these films, animated by Cosgrove Hall, have skiploads of fans in the target, pre-school age group, thanks to neatly constructed stories and identifiable characters. The new series starts with an episode in which Sporty invents botball and Stripy loses his friend Teddy. I won't give away the ending.
Voces Espanolas Talk the Talk Jeunes Francophones
BBC2 Wednesday, May 19, 2-6am
It is Modern Language Week on BBC2 for overnight recording. It starts with five 15-minutes slots for learners of Spanish, based on authentic recordings from Spain, Western Sahara and Guatemala in which people talk about themselves, their homes, school, eating, leisure time and having fun.
The French series that ends the night is essentially the same, including reports on young people and their lives in Quebec and Senegal as well as metropolitan France. Between the two is a 45-minute programme on language learning: why do people want to learn languages and how do they set about it? The last four parts of Jeunes Francophones are being broadcast on Thursday morning, May 20, followed by another French series, France 2000, taking us to the Massif Central and Britanny; and finally the German magazine D-Mag (for 14 to 16-year-olds) and the adult drama series, Deutsch Plus. Bonne nuit, mes enfants!
Life Stuff: Quit
C4 Monday-Friday, May 17-21, 9.55-10am
"Stub it out!" is the simple message of this Life Stuff series, which opens with the story of two middle-aged men suffering from smoking-related cancers; viewers should be warned that the film includes scenes of operations. Most teenagers hardly consider the idea of getting to middle age, but with luck this programme could discourage anyone thinking of lighting up for the first time. The second film may be more immediately persuasive: it follows a mother and daughter as they try to kick their smoking habits. In part three, a teenage non-smoker who has cancer explains why he would never start. The fifth programme considers the tobacco industry and how it tries to sell its product; and the series ends with an animation about a young man and his dog. Since all five parts are going out in the same week, this concentrated dose of anti-nicotine propaganda should prove a powerful disincentive.
The First World War
From Wednesday, May 19, 10-11pm
This 10-part series is not the first on the Great War, but it is worth watching for its good use of archive film and intelligent narration (by series producer, Jonathan Lewis, based on a book by Hew Strachan). It opens with an account of the origins of the conflict, putting us straight about the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Balkans, the Archduke and his unfortunate excursion to Sarajevo. It ends by suggesting the wider repercussions of the shots that sealed Gavrilo Princip's place in history.
Full listings can be found at:
* www.bbc.co.ukschools guidesecondaryweek42.shtml
* www.channel4.com learningmainprogrammes tv_schedule.htm