The Honourable Woman, Child Soldiers of WW2, The Secret Life of Students – best TV on tonight

Two new series and a documentary in tonight's top picks Thursday 3 July

Child Soldiers of WW2 – 8pm, C5


You had to be 18 to enlist as a British soldier in the Second World War, but this film charts the experience of young boys who couldn’t wait. Bill Edwards joined the Worcester Regiment at 16: “I thought it might all be over before I had a chance to fight. What an idiot!” 

Stan Scott signed up at 15, but was turfed out of the Royal West Kent regiment when his mother wrote to the commanding officer; no problem, he just enlisted elsewhere, then volunteered for Commando training – the toughest of the lot. 

The tale of how Stan, Bill, and other underage volunteers fared prompts us to wonder if today’s teens would be so fearless – and succeeds.

The Honourable Woman – 9pm, BBC2

The Honourable Woman will split audiences, enrapturing some, infuriating others. I loved it, but then it’s written (and directed) by Hugo Blick, who gave the world the similarly divisive but brilliant The Shadow Line.

Don’t expect an easy time, it’s typical Blick – opaque to the point of audacity. It’s not at all clear what he’s up to as the first episode opens upon the newly ennobled Nessa Stein, played by the magnificent Maggie Gyllenhaal with a pin-sharp English accent.

Stein is head of the family business after the murder of her father and is a major figure in Middle Eastern politics. As a consequence, she lives her life under siege, dogged by a faithful bodyguard (Tobias Menzies).

Just let it all unfold around you and enjoy the bonus of the peerless Stephen Rea (the unforgettable Gatehouse in The Shadow Line) as a dissolute spy on his last job.

The Secret Life of Students – 10pm, C4

So much of university life is now lived through a screen that, for a student documentary to be relevant in 2014, it needs go digital.

In this, the first of a four-part observational series, the concept is brilliantly achieved thanks to “groundbreaking” technology that sees students’ texts, Facebook messages and tweets flash up as they navigate their first term at Leicester University.

The result is as honest an account of those insecurity-riddled early weeks as you’re likely to see – misguided sexual encounters and all.


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