Broadcast News by Joanna Moorhead NEXT week is Holy Week, and if you don't believe me you only need flick through the TV schedules for confirmation. Religion on TV especially of the devotional, as opposed to the documentary, kind is usually confined to Sundays, and it's only the big Christian festivals which chivvy the programme controllers into seeing the need to put it anywhere else perhaps they consider it their Lenten penance before the -Easter extravaganza of blockbuster movies, big-budget drama and holiday quiz shows.
The theme running through most of the programmes on offer next week is meditation meditation on religious art, meditation on a Bible text, meditation on a piece of music. It's all highly relevant, suitable stuff thought-provoking, intelligent, educational but certainly not, for the most part, offered at prime-time. Because. as every programme-maker knows, there's only one sort of religion that pushes up the viewing figures, and that's the sort that involves a nun or priest having his or her celibacy threatened by someone tall, dark and sexy. And so, after the Australian series The Thorn Birds, in the wake of the made-forTV movie Broken Vows, and on from the mini-drama Shadows of the Heart comes Body and Soul (ITV, Thursday, 9pm), the story of Anna, an enclosed nun forced by family tragedy to leave her convent and set foot, after 16 years away from it, in the big, bad, ugly world.
The six-part series has been adapted from the novel of the same name by journalist Marcelle Bernstein, who drew heavily in writing it on the pain-staking research she undertook for her non-fictional book, Nuns. As a result, Body and Soul is much more realistic than most in its portrayal of life in an enclosed convent and I speak with some authority, having once, for journalistic purposes only, spent a week sampling life the other side of a Carmelite grille. Thursday's opening episode captures perfectly the other-worldly, yet humdrum, atmosphere I recall so well, and even if Kristin Scott Thomas as Sister Gabriel/Anna does look wonderful in a habit, she is still a more realistic nun than those simpering, sweeter-than-sugar models that Hollywood usually comes up with.
Sunday, 6.25pm, BBC1: Village Praise sees how the people of Powerstock in Dorset, Britain's socalled "perfect village", prepare for Easter; 8.30prn, Radio 2: Palm Sunday hymns from St Columba's School, Kilrnalcolm, Renfrewshire, in Sunday Half Hour, 1030pm, BBC1: In the first of a new series, Everyman pulls back the cloak of anonymity that has long covered the work of the Samaritans and spends a Saturday night with volunteers in Birmingham; 11.10pm, BBC1: First in Beyond the Shadows, a series for Holy Week in which John Humphrys examines the themes raised by the Gospel account of the events leading up to Christ's crucifixion through real-life stories of gloom and darkness. Tonight, former Labour leader Neil Kinnock; I2.05am, ITV: Encounter investigates life as a young Buddhist monk in Thailand; Monday, 10.45pm, Radio 4: The new Book at Bedtime is On The Third Day by Catholic novelist Piers Paul Read; 11.30pm, BBC1: In the second Beyond the Shadows, Jim Swire talks about how he coped with the loss of his 23 year-old daughter
Flora, killed in the Lockerbie plane crash;
12.05am, ITV (Yorkshire and Tyne Tees only): Ampleforth Abbey provides the setting for the first of five meditations for Holy Week, with plainchant from the monks and scripture readings by pupils at the college.
Tuesday, 7.45am: Vicky Cosstick of Southwark Diocese with her Thought for the Day also Wednesday and Thursday; 5.10pm, BBC1: A drama written by holidaying Catholic and Protestant youngsters in Northern Ireland, and examined in a new series of The Lowdown, speaks volumes about their experience of life in a violent society; 11.05pm, BBC1: Tonight's Beyond the Shadows meets Aids Worker Andrew Henderson, who reflects on Jesus•s night in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Wednesday: 1130pm, BBC1: Beyond the Shadows with Sara Parkin, former chair of the Green Party, who discusses the arrest of Jesus and the tactics of pacifism. Thursday: 11.20pm, BBCI: Former miners; leader Roy Lynk muses on the nature of betrayal in Beyond the Shadows:
Good Friday, 9.55am, ITV: Cardinal Basil Hume leads the congregation at Westminster Cathedral in a service of hymns, psalms and anthems.