The latest crop of documentaries aren’t just informative but wildly entertaining. With modern filmmaking techniques we get breath-taking images, thrilling narratives and twists as shocking as any drama. Here are just some of the fantastic factual programmes to look forward to on Freeview, and some you can catch up with on Freeview Play.
Blue Planet II
It’s been 16 years since the first series of Blue Planet dazzled viewers with blue whales, belugas and parrotfish. And now the wait for a new series is almost over. This autumn, Blue Planet II will uncover astonishing characters, otherworldly locations and extraordinary new animal behaviours, many of which are completely new to science. Among the creatures set to become oceanic TV stars are dancing yeti crabs, spitting dolphins and a tiny tusk fish that can pick up shells and smash them. Sir David Attenborough provides the commentary for the series, and promises “mind-blowing moments” and “great stories which will be a joy to watch.”
Robson Green’s Coastal Lives
Tuesday 3 October at 8pm
Further episodes available to watch on Freeview Play or ITV Hub
Sticking with the aquatic theme, but focusing on human stories, this series explores the extraordinary lives and homes of people living on Britain’s coastline. The cheerfully inquisitive Robson Green not only meets a variety of coastal dwellers, but gets stuck in to help whenever the need arises, from helping a family build a timber house to transporting a flock of sheep in a small boat (as you do). And in the next episode, he meets a family in Pembrokeshire with their own island, complete with Napoleonic fort.
The Vietnam War
Monday 2 October 2017 at 10pm
This outstanding ten-part series charts the story of a long and brutal conflict that, even today, haunts American history and politics. Directed by the award-winning film-making team of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, the documentary features testimony from more than 60 witnesses and uses digitally remastered archive footage to deliver a vivid account of the Vietnam War’s origins, its escalation and its fallout. As TV histories go, this one really is unmissable.
The Detectives: Murder on the Streets
Wednesday 4 October 2017 at 9pm
We all love crime stories, but this new series isn’t fictional Scandi-noir; it’s a real life police drama filmed in Manchester. With unprecedented access to what are usually no-go areas for filmmakers, such as crime scenes and interview rooms, viewers get a stronger insight into the tactics and techniques used in complex murder investigations, and the frustrations facing the investigating officers.
Egypt’s Great Pyramid: The New Evidence
Available to watch on Freeview Play or All 4
One of the great mysteries of the ancient world is how the Egyptians managed to build monumental pyramids without modern construction tools to assist them (or Channel 4’s Grand Designs to inspire them). This documentary describes new discoveries inside the tomb of the pharaoh Khufu that suggest ships and water could have played a key role in creating this structural wonder.
WWII’s Greatest Escapes: The Freedom Trails
Saturday 30 September at 8pm
Further episodes available to view on Freeview Play or All 4
Hollywood may have given us some of the most gripping escape stories from World War II, but often the truth is much more compelling. In this series, former marine Monty Halls follows in the footsteps of escapees who crossed over mountains and through forests in treacherous conditions to get away from Nazi territory. In one programme, he re-unites an Allied soldier with the Italian resistance fighter who risked her life to help him escape, while the most recent episode recounts one of the most successful missions ever carried out by the SAS, and their daring escape from behind enemy lines in northern Italy.
Paddington Station 24/7
Monday 2 October at 9pm
In this new eight-part series, we’re taken behind the scenes to see how the people running one of Britain’s greatest railway stations rise to the challenges of everything from signalling problems to soaring temperatures. Sometimes they’re faced with exceptional circumstances, such as a getting thousands home after a Champions League final, or keeping everyone safe during a terror attack. Whatever the problem, the team does what it can to keep everyone on track.
Barbie: The Most Famous Doll in the World
Tuesday 3 October at 9:15pm
She’s been painted by Andy Warhol, had a section of Times Square named after her and has had an unprecedented impact on the toy industry. But what has given Barbie such an iconic status? Mary Portas travels to California to explore what makes Barbie tick and tries to find out the secret of her enduring success. And Mary also has a date with a real-life Ken!