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Top travel programmes to watch this week

Tune into nature, wilderness and beautiful backdrops between 9-15th May

Published: Saturday, 9th May 2015 at 9:00 am

Inspector Montalbano
Saturday, 9.00pm, BBC4
A Ray of Light concludes a rerun of all 26 Montalbano films set in Sicily. There are chicken-feed plots about a jealous husband and his wife, and a cattle shed that’s been broken into. Fans endure such paltry offerings while lapping up the ambience and easy chemistry of the regulars. This series has been a BBC4 staple, but there’s no sign of any more episodes, although a second run of the prequel Young Montalbano is in production. 


Hunters of the South Seas
Sunday, 8.00pm, BBC2
A very different kind of programme set in Indonesia this week. For a start, no fishing. Instead, sensitive explorer Will Millard looks at a tradition called Kula, whereby the people of an archipelago off Papua New Guinea travel between islands to exchange symbolic gifts. It might sound anthropological, but in Millard’s hands it becomes a strange and fascinating portrait of how a network of status and obligation works. It feels like a study in business, but filtered through tribal traditions. And the scene where the cruise ship tourists pay a visit speaks volumes.

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The World’s Most Expensive Food
Wednesday, 8.00pm, C4
London is home to more billionaires than anywhere else in the world, so they want expensive food, including £325 cups of coffee, according to a documentary that will make you either hungry or queasy. Or possibly even nauseous at the naked, conspicuous consumption. A woman who sells caviar for a living arranges a tasting at a Russian-
owned luxury goods shop that specialises in life’s essentials such as an £18,500, 18-carat, white-gold baby’s dummy. In a Mayfair club, the barman fondles a bottle of 1811 cognac that goes for £5,000 a glass. Not to just anyone. “It’s not about the money,” he says, “[it’s about] ‘Do you deserve the spirit?’

The Great British Garden Watch
Wednesday, 9.00pm, BBC2
All around the UK hundreds of amateur Attenboroughs spend every available moment observing and filming the wildlife in their gardens. We blame Springwatch. Of course it’s easy to dismiss them as obsessives (and there are some odd characters in this Modern Times doc), but there’s something charming about seeing someone intoxicated with excitement when they capture an urban fox or swift on camera. And it’s not just retirees brandishing the binoculars and video cameras. We meet three youngsters who are equally passionate about watching and noting all the different creatures that turn up in their gardens, whether it’s a humble moth or an earwig.

Wednesday, 10.00pm, E4
Great country music is famously made up of “three chords and the truth”. The same rings true for this grand ole soap opry as it returns for a third series. But here the truth hurts. So while in Nashville the main story is Rayna struggling to choose who to marry, the requisite country melodrama is provided by the fallout from Will coming out as gay to his wife and Juliette telling Avery she slept with her sleazy record-label boss.

Thursday, 9.00pm, BBC1
Every now and then, watching this superb survey of sharklife filmed in the waters of Australia, the Bahamas and New Mexico you think, “Blimey, those cameramen are brave — is that entirely safe?” A sequence at a gathering of great whites gets particularly up close and personal, but we learn in the making-of segment at the end how it was achieved: sharks have body language and if you know the signs, you can tell when they’re cheesed off. If a great white shows you the tips of its fins, back away. We’re also reminded that however much we instinctively fear sharks, it should really be the other way round: humans now kill 100 million of them a year. There was a time when that wouldn’t have caused many tears to be shed; programmes like this, showing they’re not just brute hunters but have a “language”, courtship and intriguing social lives, should help.

Wayward Pines
Thursday, 9.00pm, Fox
New series US Secret Service agent Ethan Burke, hunting two missing colleagues, is involved in a car accident and wakes in hospital in a beautiful, strange little town called Wayward Pines (filmed in Canada's British Columbia). Everyone seems very friendly, but the place looks like a film set. And the hospital is eerily quiet — where are all the patients? It’s a classic, even well-worn set up, one that will remind you irresistibly of Twin Peaks and The Prisoner, possibly even The Truman Show. There are elements, too, of The Village, which is unsurprising as both it and Wayward Pines are directed by M Night Shyamalan. Shyamalan uses his full box of tricks, as the puzzled and increasingly furious Burke (an excellent Matt Dillon) lurches from the clutches of a terrifying nurse and a creepy doctor (our own Toby Jones) into the orbit of a helpful barmaid (Juliette Lewis).

Man & Beast with Martin Clunes
Friday, 9.00pm, ITV
Martin Clunes describes himself as a “woolly-liberal, thespian farmer”. He’ll bottle-feed orphan lambs and give names to his cattle — then send them off to slaughter when their time comes, knowing they’ve had a decent life. But here, in the first of a two-part documentary in which he explores the relationship between humans and animals around the world, his boundaries are tested: will he eat bear stew, for instance? Will he ride an elephant trained and driven by a mahout, or help a Japanese cormorant fisherman? These animals don’t look as if they’re exactly enjoying the roles they’ve been given, and Clunes does a good deal of agonising in the course of a programme full of interesting sights. Nepalese farmers (filmed before the recent earthquake) cook using the gas given off by a tank of their dairy cows’ dung. And the pigtail macaque on a Thai island who scales 100ft trees to pick coconuts for his master more than earns his keep.

Weekend Escapes with Warwick Davis
Friday, 8.00pm, ITV
The Davis family is exploring Dorset. This involves a Punch and Judy show on the beach at Weymouth (Warwick approves of the size of this particular theatre), crab fishing (a rugged pursuit spoilt slightly by his pinny) and lots of rude jokes as they scamper around the Cerne Giant’s large, chalky appendage. But although they’re dreading going to Bestival, this family-friendly festival at Lulworth is the thing they enjoy most. The kids have a go on a circus trapeze, Samantha gets the whip hand and Mr and Mrs Davis renew their vows in an inflatable church in front of a slightly manic vicar. It’s strangely emotional.


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