Earlier this week, I was asked the pressing question: which would win in a fight between a polar bear and a grizzly? Yes, it was an extremely quiet night down at the pub and we'd already exhausted our musings on Syria, teenage obesity and the tragic and untimely death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The table was split down the middle on which of the two giant ursidae would emerge victorious, but we all agreed such a fight would be far more entertaining if Canadian pop muppet Justin Belieber were dangled from a pole in between them like a big beary swingball. Having spent a year observing the beasts in the wild for documentary miniseries The Polar Bear Family & Me (pictured; TVB Pearl, Tuesday at 9.30pm), wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan would surely be the man to solve our nonsensical conundrum.
Over three seasons of filming in the snowy wilderness of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, Buchanan, with the aid of filmmaker and polar bear expert Jason Roberts, followed a 17-year-old mother, Lyra, and her two cubs, to study their behaviour and highlight the threats that climate change brings to the bears' habitat.
The programme begins as the family emerge from their winter den and Buchanan gets close to the apex predators in the safety of his "ice cube", a hide made of steel and perspex. Unfortunately for Buchanan (but luckily for us viewers), Lyra's natural curiosity and big nose draw her to the cube and the formidable carnivore attempts to unwrap Buchanan like a giant choc ice. Quite how he remains (relatively) calm and continues to talk to the camera while only a thin layer of plastic protects him from becoming her mid-morning snack is beyond me.
After the series was originally shown on television, authorities in Norway threatened to fine the producers because, they claimed, the incident breached local environmental laws relating to the disturbance of the polar bear population - allegations Roberts and Buchanan vehemently denied. However it was achieved, The Polar Bear Family & Me is a fascinating study of the behaviour of the "maritime bear", with an unexpectedly intimate view of its big white gnashers.
Also premiering this week is Scott & Bailey (BBC Entertainment, Friday at 9pm), a gritty Cagney & Lacey-style crime drama set in Manchester, Britain. The show follows the personal struggles and professional lives of overworked, no-nonsense coppers, Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones; Coronation Street) and Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp; Afterlife). Very different in their approaches to solving some truly sinister crimes, the impulsive, intuitive Bailey is on the revenge path of her ex-fiance-to-be while the older, married Scott is struggling with a humdrum family life and a whiny husband. Their boss, detective chief inspector Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore; Twenty Twelve) is another tough cookie but also not without personal issues.
Scott & Bailey could easily have become another in a long line of mediocre, catch-a-killer dramas, but the strong storylines, superb performances and credible interplay between the main characters elevate this show above most of its ilk. Sure, if the men in the show aren't womanisers or serial killers, they are annoying buffoons, but for any fan of realistic crime series, there's much to love about the genre's new standout.