Channel hop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am


The Olympics are about to start. You will spend much of the next two weeks in front of a television, watching people faster, stronger and probably more attractive than you achieve impressive feats of contortion and velocity in improbably skimpy shorts. You will watch the opening ceremony with mouth agape and marvel at how it's so much better than the last one. You will buy into the hype and hold high hopes for Hong Kong's stars, and your other favourites. You will bear witness to the first day of events with the giddy excitement of someone who only watches these obscure sports once every four years.

And then you will get bored.

At some point, you'll remember why you usually don't give a stuff about athletics. You'll realise the football competition doesn't even have the world's best players. You'll discover there are only so many flawless triple-somersaults off a diving board you can bear. You'll come to accept that, to be honest, the shot put kind of sucks.

It's at that point you'll be grateful the world gave us Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders. Two decades after opening the curtains on their cigarette-stained, madcap fashion sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, Lumley and Saunders are reviving lovable rogues Patsy and Eddy for an Olympic special. Because nothing goes together like chain-smoking and triple-jump.

In Absolutely Fabulous Special: Olympics 2012 (BBC Entertainment; Saturday at 10.15pm), Eddy has rented out her house to a Hollywood star (which doesn't stop her living in it) and the ladies smother some Olympic athletes with generous helpings of their charm. What follows will remind us of all that is great about British comedy, and of why Brits are so much better on the box than they are on the track. Warning: this episode contains Eddy in a bodysuit.

A more serious British achievement can be found in Child of Our Time, a 20-year documentary project that has been following a group of 25 children and their parents since 2000 (obviously, it's not quite finished). Celebrity scientist Robert Winston fronts the series, which focuses on the nature-versus-nurture debate. Just over a decade in, Winston brings us up to date with the early years of the children's lives, tracking their evolving personalities and exploring how their individual experiences influence their happiness, confidence and relationships.

In the first episode, Identity Crisis (Bio; Wednesday at 10pm), we see the children struggle with some of the questions that will help define the rest of their lives. Are they poor or rich? Black or white? What does it mean to be a boy or a girl?

The episode focuses on three children with very different backgrounds. There's a boy growing up on a council estate in southeast London, with his mother's threatening ex-boyfriend lurking in the background. There's the ultra-competitive vet's son in Yorkshire who has grown up with wealth and a private education. And then there's a black, dyslexic boy whose parents have split up. For all parents who have fretted about the impact their personal life has on their offspring, this is essential viewing.

Finally this week, and mainly because Channel hop has a morbid fascination with death by aero-tragedy, we'll be watching Aircrash Confidential 2 (above left; Discovery, Wednesday at 10pm) - not the catchiest of names for a sequel. A series of riveting aviation detective stories, the show features interviews with pilots, witnesses, survivors and families of people who have died in plane crashes, while attempting to solve the mysteries of disasters and near-misses. Here, you get all the CGI and dramatic reconstructions you could ever need to keep your armrest-throttling fear of flying well and truly sky high. Our palms sweat just thinking about it.