TV and Radio highlights: 15-21 July 2016

By Editor, 13 July 2016 - 2:43pm

Ruth Goodman sets off on a steam train journey, the Somme is explored from both sides, and a new drama takes viewers into the undercover world of a Victorian secret agent

Full Steam Ahead Ruth Goodman 2016

Peter Ginn, Alex Langlands and Ruth Goodman explore our railway past in Full Steam Ahead (Photo: BBC)

Pick of the week

Full Steam Ahead
Thursday 21 July, 8pm, BBC Two

Our fascination with steam trains seems to know no bounds as the Victorian Farm team put down their pitchforks and take to the railways in a new series. In this first episode Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn and Alex Langlands get stuck into some of the grim realities of our Victorian past from driving a steam train along Snowdonia’s Ffestiniog line to experiencing slate mining an industry transformed by the arrival of the railway. Later episodes will look at how the railways changed the nation’s diet and transformed our leisure time.

Also this week

Archive on 4: The League of Extraordinary Housewives
Saturday 16 July, 8pm, BBC Radio 4

The British Housewives League was formed in 1945, initially as a complaint against being “under-fed, under-washed and over-controlled” during years of austerity. It’s still in existence, but its roots aren’t in left-wing politics. Rather, its initial arguments revolved around campaigning against the welfare state, which the organisation saw as endangering the role of women in sustaining and caring for their menfolk and children. Its protests against, for example, the quality of meat on offer in British butchers is said to have played a big part in Labour losing the 1951 General Election to the Conservatives. Journalist Jo Fidgen traces the history of the league and asks a question she finds uncomfortable: are traditional homemakers winning a battle for political recognition even as feminism fails to deliver on its “you can have it all” rhetoric?

The Secret Agent 
Sunday 17 July, 9pm, BBC One

Written by Tony Marchant, who previously penned the Georgian-era legal drama Garrow’s Law, The Secret Agent is a three-part adaptation of novelist Joseph Conrad’s tale of anarchism, espionage and state-sponsored terrorism. Set in 1886, it focuses on Verloc (Toby Jones), who runs a seedy shop in the heart of London’s Soho, and is given a mission by Russian embassy officials: to orchestrate a bombing and provoke a crackdown by the British against the anarchists the Russians see as a threat. To carry out his plan, Verloc has to avoid the attentions of Chief Inspector Heat (Stephen Graham) of Scotland Yard’s Special Crimes Division.

Who Do You Think You Are?
Monday 18 July, 2pm, Yesterday

In this delightful episode Sherlock actor Una Stubbs learns about the grandparents she never knew and explores the story of her great grandfather Sir Ebenezer Howard who founded the Garden City movement. Her episode also looks at the lives of more unfortunate members of the family, including a visit to the workhouse.

The Somme 1916: From Both Sides of the Wire
Monday 18 July, 9pm, BBC Two

Much has been made of the thousands of Allied troops mowed down by German machine-gun fire on the first day of the Somme, but military historian Peter Barton believes that the truth behind this most infamous of battles can only be uncovered by looking at both sides of the story. In the first part of this three-part series, Barton examines German documents to try and understand why the first day of the battle went so disastrously wrong for us.

Long Lost Family
Wednesday 20 July, 9pm, ITV

Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell work their magic once again to unite families. This week Vanda James is on the hunt for the baby she met only fleetingly 50 years ago and has since discovered is her half brother and Samantha Whyte is looking for her father – a man her mother had a whirlwind romance with in Zurich, but whom she has never seen since.

Words: Sarah Williams and Jonathan Wright

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