Pick of the Week: I'm going to cheat a little this week and divide my pick between two Scots I think worthy of attention. Firstly, archaeologist Neil Oliver, of windswept hair who strides across clifftops, and economic historian Niall Ferguson, shorter of hair but no shorter of declarative statements. Ferguson stridently lectures to camera while bewildered onlookers from around the globe attempt to go about their business. I'm having a bit of a go, but in fact the two new series presented by these men represent some of their best work. Both series begin this Wednesday on SBS ONE.
The Last Explorers (Wednesdays 8:30pm SBS ONE) sees Oliver venture beyond the British coastline as he traces the path of four Scottish explorers who sought the courage of their convictions from Africa to Antarctica, America and Japan. Expect stunning vistas and a fair amount of over the shoulder narration as Oliver draws on their diaries, photographs and letters to follow in their footsteps. During one episode he even manages to go a bit rugged and grow a beard! The first episode focuses on Dr David Livingstone ("I presume?"), a strong-headed man who campaigned against slavery but failed in his attempts to navigate the Zambezi and Nile Rivers.
China: Triumph and Turmoil (Wednesdays 9:30pm SBS ONE) also traces a grand narrative - the rise and rise of China - a subject of particular interest to its writer and presenter Niall Ferguson, last seen on our screens in his series on Western civilisation. Ferguson is a divisive figure. Born in Glasgow and based at Harvard, he's admired in some quarters for rigorous analysis of economic history and accused by others of acting as an apologist for the excesses of empire and US foreign policy. But two things are beyond doubt - the world economy is increasingly reliant on China and Ferguson's views are highly influential. It is therefore worthwhile getting his perspective on this country for which he seems to hold such a grudging admiration. Over the course of three weeks, Ferguson traces the changes through China's history from Imperial Dynasty to Mao through to superpower.
The Two Faces of Auschwitz (Friday 9:35pm SBS ONE). This moving 'As It Happened' documentary by acclaimed French filmmaker, William Karel (The World According to Bush, Dark Side of the Moon) explores two recently discovered photo albums taken at Auschwitz during May 1944. One featuring a convoy of prisoners, the other the daily lives of SS officers.
What is Reality? (Sunday 9:30pm SBS ONE). This mind-blowing science doco gives leading scientists a chance to speculate the solutions to questions that have haunted stoners for decades.
A preview of our upcoming documentary showcase including new films from Michael Moore, Errol Morris and Werner Herzog.
About this writer
Physicist and author Brian Greene, brings us a mind-blowing new exploration of space, time, and the very nature of reality.
Acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history.
A fresh perspective on the birth of civilisation in the Near and Middle East and its dynamic influence on the West.