Mark it in your calendar: November 21 is World Television Day, according to a body no less prestigious than the United Nations. Of course, they’re not talking up telly because of the frankly startling range of reality shows or sitcom reruns available every minute of the day – this is a serious celebration of the medium that brings us news footage from all over the world, shines a light on important issues through documentaries and connects the globe in the ways that matter. People think of TV primarily as just the US and UK, but the diversity of voices we have access to makes it a medium that is truly astounding when you think about it. So stand up, salute that screen and tune into these On Demand shows this November 21.
Discover the background to a long-running battleground in Afghanistan: The Great Game
It’s been on the West’s agenda for more than a decade now, since the USA and allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001, in response to the September 11 attacks. Presenter Rory Stewart, who used to be a charity worker in Kabul, takes us into this hardy nation to discuss why it has been a pawn between Great Powers since Great Britain and Russia arm-wrestled for dominance in the region 200 years ago.
Heart of the Fight is a powerful portrait of race and sporting heroism
A former Australian middleweight champion, a pastor and one of the inspirations behind The Block in Redfern: that’s the hefty résumé of Dickie Blair. Heart of the Fight tells the story of how this Aboriginal cane cutter arrived in Sydney and became one of the leading faces of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, when Australia voted in a referendum to count Aborigines as people. It’s an inspirational tale that deserves to be seen by more people.
Step into some radical shoes with Jihad: A Story of Others
How are people recruited into radical groups, and inspired to believe in extremist philosophies? Over two years, this investigation documented the experience of young Muslims in the West, learning how they come to embrace violence and even go to war for their religious beliefs. It’s an Emmy Award-winning documentary that offers some understanding of what it’s like to be in their position.
Find yourself shocked at The Human Zoo: Science’s Dirty Secret’s revelations of the past
Some documentaries are designed to both angry up your blood and reassure you that we could never be as unthinkingly racist as our forebears. The Human Zoo offers a strong clue to its contents – this is the story of “exotic” specimens from other countries who were displayed alongside animals for the curiosity of the viewing public. Take Ota Benga, for example. This Batwa pygmy was taken from the Belgian Congo and put on display at the Bronx Zoo.
Sample some historical Swedish drama with Anno 1790
No prizes for guessing when this show is set, but you might be interested to know it revolves around the crime-solving adventures of a former army physician turned criminal inspector. Johan Gustav Dåådh’s (Peter Eggers) stomping grounds are in Stockholm, and there’s plenty of philosophy and romance among the lawbreaking and violence. In short, it’s very Swedish and very watchable.
Kabul Kitchen shows the lighter side of Afghanistan
This French comedy series follows a guy named Jacky (Gilbert Melki) who runs a kitchen for French expats in Afghanistan. The first episode is set in 2005, when Jacky’s daughter Sophie turns up with a head full of humanitarian ideas. What will this mean for the kitchen, which features alcohol, a swimming pool and bikini babes in a very moralistic country? There are two seasons of Kabul Kitchen available On Demand, so don’t feel you have to watch it all in one day.
Enjoy the natural beauty of the Boot in Wild Italy
This two-part series is a deeply picturesque exploration of Italy, from top to bottom, which showcases sights and sounds that most tourists don’t get to see. You’ll be amazed at the diversity of flora and fauna that exist all along this relatively small country, in secret spots fenced off from the rest of the world with rugged terrain or difficult approaches. It’s a spectacular way to polish off World Television Day.