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paul merton in china

Comedian Paul Merton ventures into the unknown as he embarks upon a six-week ‘grand tour’ of China for Five. Although not a particularly seasoned traveller, Paul is fuelled by a long-held desire to see for himself what is happening in modern day China: “With the Olympic Games coming up, this is a really good, exciting time to come,” he says. To this end, Paul will visit not just the major cities, but also some of the most scenic backwaters that this vast country has to offer.

The first challenge for Paul comes when he discovers that his taxi driver has no idea where his hotel is. “I have a sneaking suspicion my driver only arrived in Beijing ten minutes before I did,” he says. Paul begins exploring the capital by visiting a night market, where he is confronted by an array of exotic and unidentifiable food. “This here looks like the buttons you find on a duffel coat,” Paul says, pointing to one specimen.

Paul also pays a visit to the historic houses district and meets a peasant who builds robots out of scrap. But ahead of him is an entire country to discover. Paul will visit Tibetan monasteries, learn about Chinese medicine and kung fu, see an opera and travel through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. In his own inimitable style, Paul will attempt to unravel the mysteries and contradictions of this ancient and complex country.

the wolfman

The Wolfman is the unique story of Shaun Ellis, a man who has given up everything to take a dangerous and unorthodox approach to learning about wolves. Behind the secure fences of a Wildlife Park in North Devon, Shaun Ellis has overcome one of man’s greatest fears and joined a pack of wolves. Here he lives and breathes as a wolf, communicating with them in a language of howls, snarls and licks, and feeding with them from carcasses of meat.

The Wolfman details Shaun’s hands-on approach to the wolf pups’ care and education, as he teaches them discipline, communication and hunting techniques. The programme follows every step of the wolves’ upbringing, as they take their first howling lessons and learn to eat meat from Shaun’s mouth. Immersing himself in their world, Shaun has become accepted as their leader, and has developed the ability to defend himself and the pack from other wolves by mimicking their sounds.

As he takes on a wolf’s persona, Shaun finds that his body seems to be taking on wolf-like characteristics. Every day is a hard battle for survival and Shaun has sacrificed everything, losing his family, home and financial security as a result. He truly believes, however, that what he is doing will make a difference.

The programme also shows Shaun’s perilous reentry into the pack after returning from a trip to Poland. Will the trio of wolves he has raised since birth turn against him?

The Wolfman offers an intimate portrait of wolves and the man who has gone to amazing lengths to understand and protect them.

the great escape: china’s long march

One of the most epic military expeditions of the 20th century and one of the most amazing physical feats ever attempted, the Long March was a controversial event, hailed as the turning point of the Chinese revolution. Surrounded by hostile armies, Mao Zedong’s 87,000-strong Communist Red Army escaped and travelled nearly 6,000 miles on foot in just one year. Now, in a gripping new film by Emmy award-winning producer John Corry, the survivors tell their incredible stories of survival against overwhelming odds.

england v west indies: npower test series

Summer is nearly upon us again and it is time for another bumper season of cricket action. England’s first visitors this season are the West Indies, who play a four-test series, beginning at Lord’s on Thursday 17th May. Mark Nicholas will be presenting highlights with the help of Geoffrey Boycott, Simon Hughes and Ian Bishop.

England returned from Australia with a chastening 5-0 Ashes defeat and had a disappointing run in the World Cup, so will be hungrier than ever to get back to winning ways. They will also have to adjust to life with a new coach following the resignation of Duncan Fletcher after eight years in charge.

With a fit Michael Vaughan set to resume the Test captaincy, there will be no room for one of Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Strauss or Alastair Cook in the batting line-up. Things will become more complicated should England pick Marcus Trescothick at the top of the order following his controversial stress-related return from Australia before the Ashes began. And will Simon Jones – such a vital component in England’s Ashes win of 2005 with his deadly reverse-swing –also be back in contention after prolonged injury?

As for the West Indies, these former giants of the game have been on a downward spiral for many years now. With the recent retirement of their talismanic captain, Brian Lara, they too will be looking to make a fresh start.

macintyre: the edge of existence

Donal MacIntyre will put his life and reputation on the line as he tries to live at the absolute limits of human habitation in The Edge of Existence, a new four-part series for Five. Throughout the world there are places so inhospitable that humans cannot survive there long term. The Edge of Existence shows what it is like to live in these places and Donal will experience firsthand the natural world at its harshest.

He will visit a tribe in Papua New Guinea; meet the Inuits who live in the most northerly community in the world, experience camel migration in the Sahara and hunt bull sharks in Nicaragua. The series features some of the most spectacular locations in the world. Combining survival knowhow, anthropology and physical challenges, the outcome will never be certain for Donal in this brand new action adventure series.

the orient express with gavin stamp

Art historian and writer Gavin Stamp is on his travels again on Five. In a brand new series, Stamp embarks on one of the greatest railway journeys in the world, following the route of the old Orient Express from London to Istanbul. Stamp’s trip will take him 2,000 miles through ten countries – through parts of Europe that were for years locked behind the Iron Curtain and which remain in some ways still undisturbed by modern life.

The journey begins with a trip from Waterloo to Paris’ Gare du Nord, where the Orient Express proper departs. The inaugural run of the Orient Express was in 1883, and, as Stamp explains, it represented more than a mere train: “It was a dream of a new Europe, of a world made less foreign by the civilising force of the railway.”

Europe’s first intercontinental service marked a significant change from the uncomfortable trains of the past. “It was to be a palace on wheels,” Stamp says. This is apparent in the lovingly-restored coaches on the present day train, which runs from Paris to Vienna. “This is the way to travel,” Stamp declares. However, not all of the transportation on his journey will be so luxurious. Join Gavin Stamp on the Orient Express and follow him across a continent of remarkable sights and history.

roary the racing car

Pre-school kids should prepare to take pole position this May as Roary the Racing Car zooms into view. From the producers of Fifi and the Flowertots, and voiced by none other than UK comedy king Peter Kay and motor racing legend Stirling Moss, this magical animation brings to life the adventures of Roary, a young and cheerful motor car.

Roary lives with all his friends at Silver Hatch racetrack, where he hopes one day to call himself the best motor car in the land. He’s the youngest of all the cars, and his sense of mischief sometimes lands him in trouble! However, his boundless enthusiasm and good nature mean that nobody can be cross with him for too long. His youth means that he is always full of beans, but he has also got a lot to learn as he gets older. Its a journey that is helped by chief mechanic and mentor Big Chris (voiced by Kay). Big Chris is a wizard with a spanner, and knows everything about cars. He’s always on hand to give the little car a pep talk when he feels down.

Other characters in Roary’s life include bossy manager Marsha; haughty Italian F1 car Maxi; bruiser Tin Top; French stunt car CiCi; and the wealthy owner of Silver Hatch, Mr Carburettor. In next week’s first episode, Roary is nervous about a big race, so Big Chris tells him a story about how he first arrived at Silver Hatch.

the philosopher’s stone: the true story

Today, the sorcerer’s stone is seen as fiction from the pages of the ‘Harry Potter’ story. But in the Middle Ages, the quest for the sorcerer’s stone – or the philosopher’s stone as it was more commonly known –was second only to that of the Holy Grail. The stone was actually a compound made from secret ingredients, said to have the power to transform base metals into gold and grant long life – even immortality.

This documentary follows the adventures of men such as Nicholas Flamel – a fictional character in ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ – who really existed and was rumoured to have found the secret of the stone. It also unearths the intrigue behind the machinations of Edward Kelly and John Dee – alchemists whose obsessive search for the stone resulted in rumours of madness, conversations with angels, and even wife-swapping. Some of today’s foremost scholars of chemistry, including Harold Goldwhite and Lawrence Principe, explain why these men only sound crazy today. At the time, alchemy and the experiments devised to create the stone actually represented a leap forward in science. Today, we owe most of our modern lab equipment and experimental techniques to the efforts of these alchemists.

Was their search for immortality and the secret of transmutation really on sound scientific ground? And did some, as is still rumoured, actually succeed?

raised by the hand of god: hidden lives

The human interest documentary strand continues its third series of surprising real life stories. The six hour-long programmes feature more incredible tales from around the world, focusing on unusual and sometimes alarming personal stories. Next week’s episode, Raised by the Hand of God, explores strictly fundamental Christian parenting – a philosophy in which discipline is everything and corporal punishment a fact of life.

The parents who live their lives by this code train children as young as six months old to overcome their inherently ‘sinful nature’. Using exclusive footage and revealing first-hand testimony, this film takes a look at a number of families who believe that if you fail to beat it out of your children, their guilt and sin will remain within them forever.

hidden lives

The human interest documentary strand Hidden Lives returns for a third series of surprising real life stories. The six hour-long programmes promise more incredible tales from around the world, focusing on unusual and sometimes alarming personal stories.

Episodes will include an exploration of some of Britain’s most extreme relationships, where married couples have invited a third person to share their house and bed. Other instalments will look at short angry men, female body builders, fundamentalist Christian parents, and wives who believe they should be utterly submissive to their husbands.

The first episode focuses on people who have overcome the odds by having both a successful career and Tourette’s syndrome. Case studies include a teacher who was named the State of Georgia’s teacher of the year, despite his condition, and a millionaire club owner who describes himself as 25 per cent mad…

big ideas that changed the world

The series exploring the roots, rise and impact of world-changing ideas returns for a second run. Renowned public figures including the Rev Jesse Jackson, Benazir Bhutto, Jonathon Porritt CBE, David Blunkett and Terry Waite CBE present a series of polemics tracing the history of grand ideas.

Each episode of the series will offer a thoughtprovoking and personal analysis of a specific idea that has had a radical impact on the course of history and the world today. Themes covered in this new series include egalitarianism, Islam, consumerism, terrorism and nationalism.

The series begins with a look at the concept of equality by the undisputed leader of the American civil rights movement, the Rev Jesse Jackson. A former candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, Jesse Jackson has spent his whole life fighting for equality, from his early days working alongside Martin Luther King Jr to his activities as an international statesman and mediator. Jackson shows how the ideal of egalitarianism has inspired millions of people around the world in their battle against persecution and their fight for freedom.

Yet despite the achievements of these campaigners, Jackson asks, are we any closer to achieving equality on planet Earth?

i know what you ate last summer

In this five-part series, six obese British teenagers spend a potentially life-changing two months at Wellspring Adventure Camp in California. During their stay, the group will be given the knowledge, skills, and kick-start they need to change their lives forever. It will be an emotional and physical odyssey – and the toughest thing they have ever done. Wellspring claim that their pioneering approach has long-term results, but will it work for our six?

In this first programme, we meet the teens who have been picked from hundreds of applicants – Emmanuella, Adam, Lizzie, Alyssa, Nyondo and Jorjie – and hear their stories. As their tearful parents wave them off at the airport, they can only imagine what lies ahead. Parted from television, junk food and luxuries, they’ll be camping out in the wilderness and will undertake daily physical challenges and lessons in nutrition. The kids’ personal video diaries will reveal their hopes, fears, triumphs and frustrations. “I feel different already,” says Lizzie after just three days.

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