There's a lot of BBC, a couple of venerable political films (about Mao and Nixon respectively) worth catching, and some Sir Edmund Hillary action in the Documentary Channel's January lineup.
The shades of autism are almost inevitably bettered rendered by family than by medical professionals, and that's the case with The Autism Puzzle (9pm Jan 15), a documentary made for BBC4 by Saskia Baron, whose brother Timothy was born profoundly autistic in 1961, a time when the condition was barely recognised, let alone catered for in society.
Baron's father Michael jointly founded the National Autistic Society the year after Timothy was born. Her documentary looks at both the history of autism and the latest experimental research on its nature.
Another BBC documentary, Race for Everest, gets a Sunday Premiere showing at 9pm on Sunday January 7, followed by screenings through the month. Sir Ed, naturally, appears as himself (he has a surprisingly long CV on IMDB, including two appearances on What's My Line?).
Remember the Ya-ba panic? The domestic P plague has rather robbed the news value from other Asian amphetamines, but it was the MacIntyre Investigates programme on "crazy medicine" that first got the speed boom into the headlines. MacIntye's undercover adventures take him to Thailand, where tax-boys sell drugs in the street. Screens 9pm Saturday January 13.
Staying with highly political substances, Message in a Bottle is a well-reviewed BBC documentary about the soft drink giant's battle to hold on to its Muslim market in the face of a challenge from two new products - Qibla Cola and Mecca Cola - developed for explicitly political ends. It screens at 8pm January 24.
Politics junkies may lap up the two parts of Secret Life of Richard Nixon, part of the BBC's Reputations series, which screen together from 8-10pm on Wednesday Jan 17. It's not new (it first screened in 2000) but appears to be quite well-regarded.
Even older (1993) is Chairman Mao: The Last Emperor, which sparked a diplomatic furore in Hong Kong and was yanked from the schedules by a spooked local TV company. The film, released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Mao's birth, touches on the Chinese dictator's sexual preference for young girls. It debuts on the Documentary Channel at 9pm, Sunday January 21.
And, finally, just in case you were thinking about, Freeze Me (Sunday January 28) is a doco originally made for the National Geographic channel about people who choose to have themselves frozen indefinitely by the cryonics company Alcor instead of just dying like everyone else.
Real Times will be taking a break for a little while, but we hope to rejoin you some time in the new year.
As a onetime _Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy_ fan I'll have to try and remember to watch _Freeze Me_. Yet another example of science fiction becoming science reality, maybe?