TV review: Welcome To Lagos | Grey's Anatomy | A Passionate Woman

You wouldn't have to reset your watch if you flew to Lagos, Nigeria, but there's still a time difference. For, as the fascinating new series WELCOME TO LAGOS makes you realise, this megacity of 16 million people is a little bit further into the future than we are.

It might not look like it, especially on the Olusosun dump, where people live and work amid piles of rubbish, in shacks made of scavenged materials. But the thesis of the programme is that this industrious hive of make do and mend, recycling and careful avoidance of waste isn't a leftover from a pre-developed past but a foretaste of what's to come for the whole of the industrialised, increasingly urban world.

That sounds heavy, but this is actually an upbeat and entertaining programme which portrays the people of the dump, and of Lagos in general, as resourceful, hard-working hustlers adapting themselves to their surroundings better than us in the West, who think that using a plastic bag more than once is enough to save the planet.

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The city's grown, hugely – from fewer than 300,000 inhabitants 50 years ago to the crush of today. And to feed and sustain themselves, they've had to improvise. More than 5,000 people work at the dump, filtering some 9,000 tons of rubbish every day by hand. Anything that can be reused or reprocessed is gold, from plastic bottles to copper wire.

And the dump's like a city within a city, with people living there too; there are shops, bars, restaurants, cinemas, a mosque, a barber's shop. Some never leave it. It's in many ways a very ordered and self-reliant society: no-one locks their doors, they leave their valuable scrap unguarded and any theft or transgressions are dealt with by their own government.

But it's clearly still a tough life, with conditions few of us would fancy. The programme draws you into wondering how well you would make out there yourself by letting us get to know several of its inhabitants. There is Eric, or "Vocal Slender", an ambitious young chancer who wants to make his name as a rapper. He scavenges at the dump to fund the making of his first CD, a catchy rap about – what else? – making and spending money. He gets his photo taken, posing gangsta style, for the cover, then he's broke again. But, "I know that sooner or later God will put a smile on my face and my soul will become joy," he declares cheerfully.

Then there's Joseph, a trader and family man who's saving up for his daughter's birthday party and fills his one-room flat near the dump with things he's picked up there, from a toastie maker to her teddy bear. "These rich people, they don't like to conserve things ... we live on crumbs from their table," he says philosophically, but he's not complaining.

His business is just like the stock market, he says, the price for goods going up and down with the dollar: "The difference between me and the people that work at the stock market is only the suit and the tie and the fine shoes." But the canny Joseph, you feel, would probably know better than to crash his economy.

There are several other characters featured, also at a nearby cattle market, who are as engaging as those in a soap opera – and for one there's a shocking twist near the end, too. It's refreshing to see people from Africa portrayed not as victims or mediated through the gaze of a western presenter, but in their own right. The slangy narration and jaunty soundtrack to the series keep things positive, but underlying it there's an unspoken warning. This is what's coming, and our wasteful, disposable society is not yet ready for it.

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And if you think that's scary, here's something worse: the new series of GREY'S ANATOMY (well, new to us, though these episodes date from 2007). The inexplicably popular, drippy hospital drama crawls back with its infuriatingly self-obsessed doctors still more concerned with their personal issues than their patients.

It seems to have infected them off-screen as well: chief surgeon Burke has disappeared with minimal explanation, as the actor playing him was fired for homophobic remarks to a castmate, while Katherine Heigl publicly admitted that her storylines were rubbish – and you can see why, because her character, Izzy, spends this episode not using her medical training, team of interns and expensive equipment to treat a human patient, but to save an injured deer. Oh, but there's a cute kid who asks her to and it's, you know, like Bambi, and she feels like Bambi because she told one of her colleagues that she loves him but he didn't say it back and that's, like, enough to make a girl moon around making doe eyes. Ugh.

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You wouldn't have had the ER staff wasting time on a deer; they were too busy with multiple disasters and shortage of funds and staff and shouting rapid-pace streams of jargon across bloody operating tables. The Grey's Anatomy world doesn't do realism; it's a pretendy hospital where everyone's emotions are in teenage torment.

Things are a bit more adult in A PASSIONATE WOMAN, Kay Mellor's drama about her mother's 1950s affair with a fairground worker, which resurfaces in the 1980s. Billie Piper looks good in the period outfits as unhappy housewife Betty (Sue Johnston plays the older version), but it's a dull, conventional script which stays well within the usual clichs.

Welcome To Lagos

Thursday, BBC2, 9pm

Grey's Anatomy

Friday, Five, 10pm

A Passionate Woman

Sunday, BBC1, 9pm