It is the first of the semi-finals in the University Challenge Christmas quiz for grown-ups.
Why are male mandrill faces (big bold primates from West Africa) red and blue? How are birds' feathers so colourful? What do ringtail lemurs do to talk to one another? Their skin holds the key. As Professor Ben Garrod explores how animals communicate with one another, he uncovers a myriad more wonderful ways.
Skin has evolved in some remarkable ways to enable animals to communicate with each other, from vibrant displays of colour to skin pouches to amplify sound. Ben shows how animals have evolved to use skin to make themselves heard loud and clear. Birds are notable for their use of coloured feathers to attract mates, show status and as displays of aggression. But, as Ben discovers, long before birds evolved their unrivalled use of colour, it is now believed that their ancestors, the dinosaurs, could well have been using colour to communicate. Ben also uncovers how one species of fish communicates using electricity, and a common British bird has been secretly communicating for years, without us ever knowing.
Historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Tom Pinfold and Peter Ginn turn the clock back 500 years to rediscover how the farms of Tudor England celebrated the 12 days of Christmas.
Although Christmas was celebrated very differently in Tudor times, if anything the celebrations were even bigger. All work stopped on Christmas Eve for 12 days of revelry and feasting. While Peter and Tom decorate the farmhouse with holly and ivy, Ruth prepares grand banquets for the farm workers. The Christmas Day feast was particularly special and featured a pig's head rather than a turkey as its centrepiece.
Most farmers could not afford to feast every day, but the monasteries held a special mass and banquet on each of the 12 days of Christmas. The fifth day, the Feast of Thomas Becket, was particularly important. Red meat was thought to stimulate virility, so monks ate poultry, such as swan and game. Tom and Ruth learn the art of falconry - the main way of catching game birds. The team also indulge in archery, the most popular sport of the era, whilst Tom learns how to make bagpipes, the most widely played instrument of the day.
The culmination of Christmas was marked by a frenzy of music, food and alcohol. The main treat was twelfth night cake. A dried pea was hidden in the cake - the precursor to the sixpence in a Christmas pudding - and whoever found it would be appointed the Lord of Misrule for the night, leading the celebrations. Tudor life was hierarchical and strictly organised, but at Christmas the rules were relaxed and the roles reversed.
Finally the revellers head out 'wassailing' - an early version of carol singing, which originated many songs still sung today, such as We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Ding Dong Merrily on High.
On Tuesday 9 January 1649, crowds gather in Cheapside, London as a proclamation is read out. King Charles I will be put on public trial at Westminster Hall in ten days’ time. It sends shockwaves through the city.
The next day, commissioners - senior judges from around the country - gather to prepare for the unprecedented trial of the king. Their meeting is recorded in surviving transcripts. Words like ‘wicked’, ‘tyrannical’ and ‘cruel’ are all used to describe the monarch. Although the consensus is that Charles is a tyrant, only half of the commissioners appointed actually attend the meetings at Westminster Palace, in fear of being indicted as traitors. Support is on thin ice and many parliamentarians are uneasy about the process of a treason trial, for the outcome is plain for all to see. Lord Fairfax, the lord general of the New Model Army, is representative of the view of many parliamentarians. He believes a compromise should be made and declares he will have no part in the King’s trial. However, Fairfax’s counterpart - Oliver Cromwell is going full steam ahead. He allegedly states, ‘We will cut off his head with the crown upon it!’
Up and down the country, printing presses are in overdrive. A wave of pamphleteering discusses the topic of the day - Crown verses Parliament. However, one printed text has not been cleared for circulation. On 14 January, the first edition of Eikon Basilike (Royal Portrait), a spiritual autobiography of the king, is destroyed before it can leave the print house.
Parliament cannot risk the release of powerful royalist propaganda as they struggle to build a case against the king. They are already hamstrung by the existing law, which has been written by the monarchy. In less than a week they need to create a watertight charge that will see Charles brought to justice for his crimes against a devastated country. The trial will essentially accuse the king of war crimes.
On 20 January, the first day of the trial, Westminster Hall is packed. People hang off balconies to watch as the king is made to answer to the common man. The charge is delivered - ‘tyrant, traitor, murderer' - but no-one could have predicted what was to happen next. Charles will not acknowledge the court, a court he deems illegitimate. If the king will not plead guilty, or not guilty, there is little trial to be had.
Over the next three days, the king and the lord president, John Bradshaw, become embroiled in a battle of wills. Is it Charles’s arrogance that leads him to refuse to accept the authority of the court, or is it a cunning and politically astute method to defend his crown and his life? With only days left to try the king, Parliament have to move fast. Otherwise, they will end up on the scaffold.
Mulligan and O’Hare present their album Caravan Park, and Vic reveals his latest plastic surgery enhancement. Three acts battle it out in Novelty Island while Vaun tries to lure Vic away from Bob.
It's Christmas Eve and Vic and Beef can't wait to start the celebrations, but this isn't the case for poor Bob whose festivities are cut short when the Christmas present he organised for his sulky son Erik catches fire.
They join Julie and Bosh on an underground journey by boat to Phil Collins's house. En route, a final surprise in the form of Santa Claus awaits.
Northern Thailand is dominated by mountains and cloaked in forest. It hides ancient creatures and surprising partnerships. To survive here, both the wildlife and people rely on maintaining the natural harmony of the mysterious north.
Following a brief period of decline, the entrepreneurial and industrious region of the Low Countries rose again to become a cultural leader in the modern age. Despite its small and almost insignificant size it produced important forward-thinking artists like van Gogh, Mondrian, Magritte and Delvaux, who changed the face of art forever.
Andrew's journey takes him to a remote beach in north west Holland that inspired Mondrian's transition to his now-renowned abstract grid paintings. Andrew digs deep into the psychology and social history of the region, exploring how the landscape of the past has informed the culture and identity of the Low Countries today and the impossibility of the Dutch drive to turn the philosophy of Mondrian's geometric order into a way of living.
It is Thomas Shelby's long-awaited wedding day. In the middle of the celebrations, a mysterious visitor imperils the entire Shelby family, and Tommy finds himself pulled into a web of intrigue more lethal than anything he has yet encountered.
Tommy discovers the extent of the mission given to him and the extreme lengths his new paymasters are willing to go to in their quest for power.
Meanwhile his own family's activities lead to escalating danger in Birmingham.
Responding to the Italians' actions, Tommy is set on a path of deadly vengeance. Meanwhile, as he makes plans for his mission on behalf of the Russians, he realises there is a traitor in his midst.
THURSDAY 19 DECEMBER 2019
THU 19:00 University Challenge (b0bx6vr4)
It is the second of the semi-finals in the University Challenge Christmas quiz for grown-ups.
Jeremy Paxman asks the questions.
THU 19:30 Secrets of Skin (m000cf0t)
What is the most toxic animal on earth? How are porcupine quills helping us in medicine? Why is a rhino armour plated, and it is not to protect them from lions?
Professor Ben Garrod discovers the complex ways, from camouflage to deadly toxins, in which the skin helps defend animals against threats of all kinds. From the barbed quills of the North American porcupine to the battering ram of a rhino’s horn, the skin has developed an impressive armoury of weapons and warnings to keep predators at bay.
With experiments and specialist factual insight, Professor Ben Garrod reveals the toughest and most resilient of animals defend themselves through their skin. One of the most iconic warnings in nature is that of the rattlesnake. Ben takes a teaching sample of a rattlesnake’s tail to the University of Bristol to test just how fast it can vibrate. He uncovers how poison-dart frogs produce their toxins, and how cuttlefish are the masters of disguise when it comes to hiding in plain sight.
THU 20:00 Wartime Farm (b01pgr4b)
Following the huge success of the Wartime Farm series - watched by over three million viewers a week during its eight week run - historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologist Peter Ginn are returning to Manor Farm in Hampshire to recreate the conditions of Christmas 1944.
1944 saw the sixth Christmas at war, and shortages were biting deeper than ever. Added to this, Britain's cities were in the grip of the worst German attacks since the Blitz of 1940. Unmanned flying bombs - the dreaded V1 'Doodlebugs' and V2 rockets - rained down, stretching morale and services to breaking point.
Having been set the target of doubling home-grown food production by the government, Britain's farmers had already ploughed up six and a half million additional acres in the drive for additional crops (an area equivalent in size to the whole of Wales). Now, in addition to maintaining food production, it fell to Britain's farmers to come to the aid of the nation's urban dispossessed in their hour of need. Many rural women joined the one million-strong Women's Voluntary Service to provide food, drink and gifts to lift the spirits - especially at Christmas. Ruth finds out how the WVS operated the government's National Pie Scheme.
Beer was seen as so essential to the nation's morale that it was never rationed - but a vital ingredient, barley, was in short supply, so substitutes were needed. Peter calls upon rural crafts expert, Colin Richards, to brew some improvised potato beer for Christmas. Meanwhile, Ruth comes up with innovative presents for children, and ingenious festive decorations made from scraps.
A Christmas church service is enjoyed by the community at Manor Farm, including German prisoners-of-war who, along with Italian POWs, accounted for one in five of the farming labour force in Britain by Christmas 1944, and had become surprisingly well-integrated into some rural communities. Following in the footsteps of many wartime rural farmers, Peter and Ruth transport their gifts, food and beer on a vintage wartime steam train to Chislehurst Caves - 10 miles outside London - where they discover what Christmas was like for some of the 15,000 people who sheltered in the caves.
Following recipes and guidelines issued by the government and the WVS, Ruth cooks an improvised Christmas meal, relying chiefly on rabbit and a glut of carrots from the farm. And the Salvation Army bring musical cheer to the occasion as the team reflect on the impact of what was to be the last Christmas of the Second World War.
Wartime Farm was produced in partnership with The Open University.
THU 21:00 Charles I: Killing a King (m000cf0z)
On 23 January 1649, the third day of the king’s trial, Charles continues to publicly dispute the High Court’s legitimacy. There is no choice other than to move forward and enforce the charge against him. After two days of hearing witness testimonies concerning the king’s presence in battle, the evidence against him is overwhelming.
On 27 January, the king walks into the courtroom for the final time. He has come prepared to compromise, but it is too late for that now. John Bradshaw delivers an epic oration. He draws on constitutional history, including Magna Carta, and accuses the king of breaking his oath. Bradshaw states that the king was appointed by the people and it is the people who can remove him from power. ‘Farewell, sovereignty.'
Sentence is passed - Charles will be executed. Utterly beguiled, the king is removed from the courtroom, and over the next three days he prepares for death. Although the verdict has been delivered, Parliament’s cause is still fragile. Charles’s son, Prince Charles, is in The Hague mustering support for the crown. Invasion plans are already underway, and the clock is ticking, Parliament must get the king to the scaffold and put an end to the monarchy they believe has torn the country apart.
Despite the king’s strength, determination and vigour in the courtroom, he begins to accept his fate and spends most of his time in prayer. He says an emotional goodbye to his two children who remain in England, Elizabeth and Henry. Their likeness from this time is captured in an exquisite portrait miniature. Princess Elizabeth never recovered from the trauma of parting with her father. She records an account of their last, devastating moments together.
As the king gathers his affairs and his state of mind, the death warrant is hurriedly drawn up and signatories - some say under duress from Cromwell - are gathered. Cromwell’s determination comes from his belief that he is enacting God’s will and delivering justice for the people who suffered at the hands of the feckless King. His mind is set. The execution must be carried out.
On a freezing morning on Saturday 30 January 1649, Charles I wakes up at 5am
and puts on two thick shirts to offer him some protection from the blistering cold. Determined not to appear afraid, he must not shiver. As the king prepares for death, Parliament are appalled to discover there is no act that prevents succession. In haste they pass the act as a legal emergency.
Finally, shortly before 2pm
, the king is led through Banqueting House. He may have looked up at the Rubens ceiling that depicts his father ascending to the side of God as is his divine right. He makes his way through a window and onto the scaffold to deliver his final speech to the people, now inked into the pages of history. Lying down at the low block, he says ‘Wait for the sign’ before he stretches his arms aside and his head is struck off.
People flock to the scaffold to dip their rags and kerchiefs in the blood of the king. Hair is cut from his severed head, to be preserved as relics, and the little pearl earring that delicately hung from his ear is carefully removed and remains preserved to this day.
On a freezing, bleak January day, King Charles I was killed and a republic was born. But did he die as a murderer or as a martyr?
THU 22:00 The Story of Fairytale of New York (b0074f8x)
For the first time in 18 years, all eight members of The Pogues return to the studio where their biggest hit - and the nation's favourite Christmas song - was recorded. The song's producer Steve Lillywhite strips Fairytale down to the basics, and director Peter Dougherty reveals the tricks behind the making of the video - including how a cameo from Hollywood star Matt Dillon stopped The Pogues from almost being arrested. With contributions from Matt Dillon, Nick Cave, Jools Holland and of course Shane MacGowan and The Pogues, it lifts the lid on this seminal track and reveals the secrets behind its making.
THU 23:00 Wild West - America's Great Frontier (b080ywyx)
From the mysterious Sea of Cortez to the wild and elemental Pacific Ocean, powerful earth forces shape the coastline of the wild west. These restless shores are a magnet for life; visited by the greatest of all animals, the blue whale, and by strange fish that come ashore on the full moon to spawn in their thousands. Fog-shrouded headlands nurture massive coastal redwoods and swollen-nosed lizards eke out a living on remote desert islands.
THU 00:00 Peaky Blinders (b07czw04)
Tommy and Tatiana play a personal and dangerous game to acquire information from one another, and Tommy finally comprehends the magnitude of Tatiana's warped ideals.
Meanwhile, Polly reveals a dark secret, with terrible consequences for Tommy.
THU 00:55 Peaky Blinders (b07dwngq)
As the Russians test the Peaky Blinders, Tommy realises that he is being seriously outmanoeuvred. But he has an ace up his sleeve in the form of an enemy turned ally - if only he can control him.
THU 01:55 Peaky Blinders (b07fg86c)
As Tommy prepares to commit the most audacious crime of his career, a blow is struck against him that could change everything. As he faces his worst fears, he needs his family more than ever - but who can he trust?
THU 02:55 Charles I: Killing a King (m000cdzd)
[Repeat of broadcast at 21:00 on Tuesday
FRIDAY 20 DECEMBER 2019
FRI 19:00 University Challenge (b0bx6vtf)
The Grand Final
It is the grand final of this seasonal competition for alumni from some of the UK's top universities - which university will be Christmas University Challenge champions?
Jeremy Paxman asks the questions.
FRI 19:30 Secrets of Skin (m000cf26)
Professor Ben Garrod explores how some snakes can see using heat, how crocodiles feel through their jaws and how some animals use electricity to navigate their world - and it is all only possible because of remarkable adaptations to their skin.
Whether animals live on land, in the sea, or in subterranean communities, skin is critical in allowing them to sense the world around them, be it to find food, navigate harsh environments or avoid danger. Even the toughest of animals, crocodilians, have a surprisingly sensitive side when it comes to the specialised skin sensors they use to detect the tiniest of ripples in the water. Deadly pit vipers use heat sensors to ambush the small rodents they feed on. Professor Ben Garrod puts them to the test with an experiment to see if they will strike a cold or warm ping-pong ball. He also uncovers how the less-than-attractive leaf-nosed bat puts its facial skin to good use as an acoustic lens to echolocate around its dense forest habitat.
FRI 20:00 Top of the Pops (m000cf28)
1988 Christmas Special
Gary Davies, Bruno Brookes and Anthea Turner present the pop chart programme, first broadcast on 25 December 1988 and featuring Pet Shop Boys, Cliff Richard and Enya.
FRI 21:00 Top of the Pops (m000cf2b)
Steve Wright and Nicky Campbell present the pop chart programme, first broadcast on 22 December 1988 and featuring The Four Tops, a-ha, Kim Wilde, Shakin' Stevens, Freiheit, Neneh Cherry, Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, Cliff Richard and Status Quo.
FRI 21:30 Country Music by Ken Burns (m000cf2d)
Don't Get Above Your Raisin' (1984-1996)
As country music’s popularity rocketed, the genre questioned whether it could stay true to its roots. The success of ‘New Traditionalists’ like Reba McEntire and the Judds suggested it could.
Garth Brooks overcame rejection and exploded onto the scene. And after being left behind by his label, Johnny Cash returned to a studio with just his guitar and his unforgettable voice to record albums that sold millions of copies and earnt him the respect of the industry he helped to create. Meanwhile, Rosanne Cash came out of the shadow of her father to start her own music career.
FRI 22:25 Country Christmas (m000cjj3)
Country superstar Trisha Yearwood hosts, and performs at, the tenth annual Country Music Association’s Christmas special. CMA Country Christmas features festive classics including one-of-a-kind collaborations between artists Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Runaway June, CeCe Winans, Brett Young, Chris Young and more.
The show will also feature performances from Kristin Chenoweth, For King & Country, Chris Janson and Tori Kelly.
FRI 23:45 Flat Pack Pop: Sweden's Music Miracle (m0002k6k)
Flat Pack Pop: Sweden’s Music Miracle charts the remarkable rise of Sweden as a global music superpower. Journalist James Ballardie explores the uniquely Swedish songwriting formula created by record producer Denniz Pop, discovering how the biggest chart hits of the last 30 years have been inspired by the myths and legends of this Land of the Midnight Sun.
In the 1990s, an elite band of unlikely entrepreneur songwriters and producers became responsible for the most dramatic revolution in music since Elvis first shook his hips. What started out as an experiment on the Stockholm underground club scene soon blossomed into an entire genre of its own. These unlikely heroes of bubblegum pop surfed the wave of the dotcom boom, launching the careers of Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, Westlife and many, many more. Hundreds of millions of record sales later, today they have a combined net worth of many billions.
Featuring interviews with key Swedish songwriters, plus producers and artists including Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Ace of Base and Robyn, James’s search for the real lever-pullers behind today’s top tunes takes him from the icy streets of Stockholm to the barren plains of Kronoberg.
But why should Sweden – of all places – have become such a hotbed for hot tracks? Some say it’s the terrible weather and long months of darkness that created the perfect environment for Swedes to refine their craft. Others praise the stellar state-funded musical education programmes promoted by the socialist governments of the 60s and 70s. A Swedish love for simplistic melodies – harking back to the medieval cattle-herding calls that form the basis of Swedish folk music – is also a key weapon in the Swedish musical juggernaut’s arsenal.
Perhaps most impressive of all about Sweden’s musical miracle is the sheer duration of its success - with a streak of hits that has lasted longer than any of the classic songwriting factories that have defined pop history - from Motown and Tin Pan Alley to the Brill Building, Leiber and Stoller, and the Wall of Sound.
At its heart – Swedish pop sounds effortless and uncomplicated. In reality, it is the most intricate and precise songwriting method of any genre. These are industrial-strength melodies handcrafted to pierce the 21st century’s hubbub - in malls, stadiums, airports, casinos, gyms and the Super Bowl half-time shows.
It is the same ethos that drove IKEA and H&M to become such world-beating brands. Swedes are so successful at exporting their culture because ingrained in the Swedish mindset is a curious knack for appealing to the residents of other countries. Pulling apart the very best ideas from British and American music, and then rearranging them in a more effective and efficient way is the cornerstone of Swedish musical thinking.
As the 1990s drew to a close, the songwriting formula created by Denniz Pop made him and his followers filthy rich, a potential source of embarrassment in equality-obsessed Sweden. In accordance with Swedish ‘Jante Law’ – a social code that promotes the good of the community over the individual – Denniz and his team shunned the limelight, preferring to leave the pressures of fame to the unabashed Brits and Americans who sang their hits. But the dream could not last forever. In 1997 Denniz was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He died a year later at the age of just 35, less than two months before his greatest creation yet – Britney Spears’s Baby One More Time hit record store shelves.
Today, the most successful of Denniz Pop’s motley band of followers is his protégé Max Martin. Max is famously modest about his mixing desk wizardry – but he is responsible for some of the most potent melodies of our time, standing third only to John Lennon and Paul McCartney when it comes to racking up US No 1 hits.
Mysterious Max has turbocharged Denniz’s songwriting formula into a theory he calls ‘Melodic Math’. It is a complex musical algorithm perfect for the digital age. Decoding the secrets of Melodic Math, James will uncover centuries-old Swedish customs and folklore hidden in the unlikely music of One Direction, Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber.
With its huge hooks, massive drops and unmistakable sense of melancholy, the sound of Swedish pop is in fact the sound of modern pop. In Flat Pack Pop: Sweden’s Music Miracle, BBC Four will uncover how this bizarre brew of influences came to dominate our charts, without us even knowing where it came from.
FRI 00:45 Peaky Blinders (b09g85kh)
December 1925. Tommy Shelby OBE (Cillian Murphy) has acquired unprecedented legitimacy. The former gangster is also a man alone, estranged from his family and focused only on business. But when he receives a mysterious letter on Christmas Eve, Tommy realises that the Shelbys are in danger of annihilation.
As the enemy closes in, Tommy flees his country house and returns to the only safe place he knows: Small Heath, Birmingham, the slum where he grew up. Facing a more determined and sophisticated threat than ever before, the Shelby family must find a way to put differences aside, work together, take up arms and fight for survival...
FRI 01:45 Peaky Blinders (b09gvn5j)
As the Shelbys come to terms with the shocking events of Christmas Day, Tommy endeavours to unite his family. Until the current threat is dealt with, their only safe place is together in Small Heath. Johnny Dogs and Charlie set about arming the locals - everyone is now a Peaky bodyguard. Tommy enlists the help of tough Romany Gypsy Aberama Gold, who wants something unusual in return.
Jessie Eden confronts Tommy about the workers' pay. She warns him that revolution is in the air, and when Tommy doesn't relent she calls his bluff. As the situation plays out, Tommy's factory manager tells him he has one more meeting - with a mysterious businessman from Paris. But what transpires is no ordinary meeting with no ordinary businessman...
FRI 02:45 Peaky Blinders (b09hc65q)
The Italians launch another attack on the Peaky Blinders. Tommy realises that the Shelbys need to evolve if they are to survive, but some of the family are reluctant to part with tradition.
As the strike takes hold at the Lanchester factory, Tommy pays a personal visit to Jessie Eden, but he is outmanoeuvred when she reveals something she knows about his past.
Changretta plots to continue the vendetta in the most devastating way possible. As well as identifying an enemy of the Shelby family who could help him, Luca makes direct contact with someone at the heart of the Peaky Blinders organisation.