Novels that Shaped Our World BBC2, Saturday, 9.45pm **** The Big Scottish Book Club BBC Scotland, Sunday, 10pm ***

THE Buggles got it wrong. Video did not kill the radio star - all hail King Ken Bruce - but television has not always been a best friend to books.

Certainly, you can find plenty of adaptations on television, from His Dark Materials to the forthcoming The War of the Worlds, and there are several book discussion programmes on radio. Writers with books to plug are always good for five minutes on a chat show. Long gone, however, are the days of Newsnight Review and its ilk, when literature was deemed as important an art form as painting and cinema.

Now books are having a moment again on television, with not one but two programmes: a new series dedicated to contemporary literature, and a slick and learned appreciation of modern classics.

READ MORE: Screen Shot on book club

The Novels that Shaped Our World (BBC2, Saturday, 9.45pm) had novelists and academics lining up to have their say on the texts. So far, so traditional. The producers were not done yet, however. Since it is practically the law to nod to any 18-34 year olds who might be watching, it also featured young actors, from Russell Tovey (Years and Years) to Derry Girl Saoirse-Monic Jackson, reading extracts from the works being highlighted. Strange, but it mostly worked.

The first of three parts looked at novels for and by women, tracing a path from Samuel Richardson’s Pamela to Bridget Jones’s Diary. Much of what was covered will have been familiar to readers, but the talking heads, including Denise Mina, Dame Margaret Drabble, and Anthony Horowitz were uniformly excellent, and there were some innovative book choices, such as Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Constance Maud’s No Surrender. Next week it is the British Empire’s turn on the book stand.

While there was a certain formality to The Novels that Shaped Our World, The Big Scottish Book club had “Come in, you’re at your aunty’s” written all over it. Hosted by Damian Barr, bestselling author of the memoir Maggie & Me, it was breezy and cheery, with the presenter opening the show with the declaration: “Yes, books are back on telly!”

Listing the delights to come over the next 60 minutes, Barr mentioned there would be poetry. Perhaps sensing a mass lunge for the remote control, he was swift to reassure viewers. “Don’t look scared about the poetry. There will be none of that ‘poetry listening face’ you had to do at school. We’re way past that.”

READ MORE: Books back with a bang

His guests included Ambrose Parry (Marisa Haetzman and Chris Brookmyre), Sara Collins and Ian Rankin. All had books to plug, but because the programme ran to an hour there was no unseemly rush about it. Barr, as well as giving the work due consideration, was able to expand the interviews to take in the writers’ lives and ways of working. There were readings, too, which brought the books to life. While taking place in the Inchyra Arts Club in Perth, if you shut your eyes it could have been a tent at the book festival in Edinburgh. Barr even managed to fit in a stroll with a local “walk and talk” book club.

Barr was a TV natural, warm, funny, and engaging. Sharp, too. Having run a successful literary salon in London for some years he knew what he was talking about, and how to keep the chat (and wine) flowing.

The only awkward moment, wouldn’t you know it, came with the poetry. Tacked on right at the end, it was a sombre piece crying out to be explained and discussed, but it received none of that, just a quick thank you and good night. What had otherwise been a slickly executed show - the producers are IWC, the makers of Location, Location, Location - that started with a bang, went out with a whimper.

Available on iPlayer