Channel 4, Mon 4 & ll Dec, 9pm. With DNA researchers from Glasgow University proving the existence of a missing link between man and ape, the broadcasting of Channel 4‘s Neanderthal couldn't be more timely. The two-part series creates a dramatic reconstruction of life on earth 100,000 years ago in an attempt to explode some of the myths surrounding primeval man's behaviour.

Physical evidence suggests that, contrary to the popular image of Neanderthals as grunting, hirsute, half-wit Captain Caveman figures, their brains and voice boxes were virtually the same size as the modern human. And, while our ancestors have previously been depicted as savages, Neanderthals were in fact considerably more civilised than the barely evolved species of human that can be seen shuffling between High Street pubs the length and breadth of the UK every Saturday night.

Community life was essential to the survival of the species in the frozen climate of Europe and Western Asia, with each member of a tribe being allocated a task based on his or her capabilities. Modern man could also learn much from the Neanderthals about not wasting our resources. One scene in the programme shows how far a slaughtered deer goes in providing not only food, but clothes, fuel and weapons. As the first conservationists, it’s unlikely that a Neanderthal would have been found flushing the loo more than once a day. The second part of the series deals with the relationship between Neanderthals and the early Homo Sapiens. As only one of these species survived their brief spell sharing the planet, expect plenty of bloody encounters between rival factions.

Neanderthal has obviously been produced on a much lower budget than the BBC’s Walking With Dinosaurs, but is no less enjoyable for not being stuffed full of

Nice visuals. shame about the dialogue

second-rate animatronics. Filmed on location, with Ireland doubling for prehistoric South of France (Dundee was the producers’ original choice for hyper-realism, but the Irish tax incentives won the day), some of the hunting scenes are shot with the frantic pace of a low budget horror film. State-of—the-art prosthetics are provided courtesy of Crawley Creatures (previously responsible for Jabba The Hutt) while the actors have been well-schooled in Neanderthal carriage by Greystoke's ape choreographer Ailsa Berk.

Nice visuals then, but shame about the dialogue. Where the programme falls down is in the voiceover which, like Walking With Dinosaurs verges on the banal. ’Fire is their only means of warmth in an open environment,’ booms Kenneth Cranham at one point. Really? So they didn't have central heating in those days? So, tune in to Neanderthal for its action sequences and not for its crackling dialogue, which occasionally makes the programme feel like a contender for Schools and Colleges rather than a BAFTA.

(Allan Radcliffe)

Trevor Nelson's peep through Mel's keyhole is the first independent documentary on any of the Spice Girls and it promises to go beyond the headlines Sadly, there’s not all that much of interest behind the tabl0id tittle-tattle and wafer-thin songs. Mel chats exuberantly about money, ambition, costumes, how she hasn't had a boob Job and how she doesn't read her own press Mum, dad, the local bobby and the sinister Dominic Mohan all pop by to add their halfpenny’s worth to the inVigorating debate

It makes undemanding VieWing, but besides the odd gem (she calls new flame Max Beesly ‘cunty' on the phonel, all this documentary really


The Players Club

BBCZ, Tue 12 Dec, 9pm.

’What’, wonders a stressed-out Mel B in a tone of disgust, 'is Chris Moyles7' It's a question we've all formulated at some stage, but in Mel's case it seems to come not from a wish to

112 THE LIST 30 Nov-l4 Dec 2000

Hardly scary stuff from Mel B

disassociate the smug git from the rest of the human race, but from a genuine lack of awareness about his oeuvre. Yet deSpite a certain insulation from the rest of society, it’s nice to know that Mel, ensconced in her Berkshire mansion, still changes little Phoenix- Chi's nappies herself

shows is that wrthout scheming tablOId hacks dressing up the dOings of the famous, their lives aren't terribly interesting And it w0u|d be nice if a few of them appreciated lTOle. ’He sold his soul to the deVil', says Mel on ex- hubby Jimmy Gulzar, Sipping from a large and presumably expensive glass of wine 'I hope it makes him happy.’ flames Smartl

TV times

We put TV celebs on the couch. This issue: Denise Van Outen

Born 1974 in Basildon Those Essex credentials have been milked to saturation pOint by the \"an Outen 'beisona' and have also proved fleetineg useful to Basilclon Council's Tourism Division

Big break A graduate of the Sylvia Young Theatre School, the cheeky young wench made her first TV acting appearance in 1983 playing a Juvenile teaiaway in The Bill

Finest hour Despite recent uncanny portrayals of buxom bloncles in Brit- flicks Love, Honour And Obey and Tube Tales, Van Outen's most successful gig remains her stint as presenter of The Big Breakfast In a recent poll, 68% of the show's Viewers (,ldllTiOCl that its success was entirely due to Johnny Vaughan, but the chemistry between Jay Kay’s missus and her co-presenter is undeniable, even spawning a top five Christmas single Especially For You in 1998

And now? Van Outen's teIeVision acting and presenting vehicles have verged on the disastrous ITV sitcom Babes In The Wood was excruciatingly painful to watch and limped out after two series, while Channel as late night sex quiz Something For The Weekend was about as racy as a night on the tiles With Bernard Manning Wisely, the blonde bombshell recently returned to The Big Breakfasts sofa after a year’s break, to reverse the programme's plummeting ratings Plus, she'll be presenting Record Of The Year, the latest in an epidemic of teleVision polls Not so little known fact Van Outen won Rear Of The Year in 1999, an honour originally bestowed on her herOine Barbara Windsor back in the 60s

No relation to Van Morrison, Eddie Van Halen, Vincent Van Gogh

(Allan Radcliffe)

I Record Of The Year, Scottish, Sat 2 Dec, 5.45pm, Sat 9 Dec, 7 45pm, The Big Breakfast, Channel 4, Mon—Fri", 7am.