Boston Law BBCl, Tue &Wed, 10.35pm.

And I thought the clean streets of Boston could be attributed to the legal expertise of stick-thin, mini-skirted, flaky attorneys, driven by dancing babies, the soulful growl of Barry

, White and a nightly boogie down at

Vonda Shepard’s piano bar. Sadly, as this new legal documentary series

reveals, the reality of that city’s ruthless

war on crime is rather less fun than your average courtroom drama. Boston Law was conceived in an

attempt to illuminate the radical crime

crackdown instigated by District Attorney Ralph Costas Martin Il, an

3 operation so successful that it became

known as the Boston Miracle. The

. programme introduces different players

from the DA’s and public defenders' offices, gaining unprecedented access to the courts and cells, with

contributions from the relatives of both defendants and victims.

The series is packaged in the style of

successful American crime drama, with

A worrying mix of fiction and reality

portentous soundtrack, shaky hand- held camera and NYPD B/ue-style captions. Yet, despite its soapy quality, the programme contains some revealing moments, including a scene where defence and prosecuting attorneys hastily hammer out a sentencing deal over coffee, exchanging years as if they were bartering in a Moroccan market.

Rather more intriguing is how comfortable these detectives, attorneys and, more worryingly, the defendants are in front of the camera while the victims’ families talk in the clichés of classic courtroom drama. This is indicative of a worrying tendency to mix up fiction and reality, a trend that you can’t help feeling this series heartily contributes to.

It's only when we’re exposed to the sight of mothers breaking down in court and the glazed looks of teenagers who have spent half their lives inside a prison cell or on hard drugs that we’re reminded how horribly squalid and deeply unglamorous the crime scene really is. (Allan Radcliffe)


1 Dark Angel Sky One, Wed, 9pm.

Girl on a futuristic motorcycle

In the year 2019, America is in turmoil after the effects of The Pulse, an electromagnetic shockwave released by terrorists. All digital wealth has been

obliterated, and the internet is gone. A new, Big Brother-style government (no, not with irritating people lounging about a house in their pants) has emerged from the chaos.

The title character is Max (Jessica

Alba), a motorcycle courier on the grim

streets of Seattle, fleeing from the military led by the insidious Col. Lydecker (John Savage). Ten years

previously, Max and several others were part of a genetic experiment to create the ultimate soldier. While trying to find her siblings, Max encounters Logan Cale (Michael Weatherly), an idealistic journalist in charge of ’Eyes Only’, an underground cable TV operation, intent on bringing the truth about this shadowy government back to the people.

If all of this sounds like something from the pen of James Cameron, that’s because it is. Dark Angel is the self- styled King Of The World’s first project since 1998’s Oscar-winning schmaltz- fest, Titanic. And, it’s a major coup for the Fox Network to have a talent like the Terminator director on board as co- creator/executive producer in this, his debut foray into television.

The show’s two-hour pilot (directed by Roswel/ Hi'gh/X-Fi'les alumnus, David Nutter) took America by storm when unveiled last October. Although, when faced with the Presidential debates, I imagine most people preferred to watch a superbabe on a bike, as opposed to the soporific ramblings of Messrs Bush and Gore.

You would have to guess that Dark Angel will succeed on these shores too; with its grungy, post-apocalyptic ambience, coupled with Cameron's all- round Midas Touch. Also, the sultry Alba looks set to challenge Sarah Michelle Gellar for the title of TV’s teen action queen. (Scott Montgomery)


DOCUMENTARY The Challenger BBCZ, Tue 23 Jan, 9pm.

It’s not qUite up there With the Kennedy shooting, but most people over twenty-years-old wrll remember clearly when the space shuttle Challenger spectacularly blew to smithereens in 1986 just a minute after take-off, killing all seven crew members. If you were of a certain age at the time (those troublesome teens) the event spawned a handful of sick jokes, so this documentary should make you hang your head in shame and reassess the event as the preventable tragedy it was.

NASA's 25th shuttle mission was probably its highest profile srnce the first, due

The day NASA's dreams went up in smoke

to the presence of the first civilian astronaut, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffc

This zippily-paced documentary traces the build-up to the fateful day, and

: specifically focuses on prior knowledge which suggested that the conditions on

28 January were far too cold and totally unSUitable for launch.

First-hand accounts of engineers’ advrce being discarded concerning untested fuel tank seals is pretty shocking, as are details of a tele-conference hours before launch in which management made clear that for the sake of publicity the launch must go ahead no matter what. Thankfully steering clear of sentimentality or melodrama, The Cha/lenger is a powerful telling of a frankly scandalous story

; (Doug Johnstone)

i ARTS MAGAZINE } The Point ' Scottish,Tue, 10.30pm.

I doesn’t follow blindly in the wake of the existing London-centric shows.

Scotland needs a decent television programme on the arts. One which takes a sharp magazrne format and has a bit of an edge. One which

One which creates its own, well- honed agenda and doesn't pander meekly to the influence of press officers. One with a decent presenter who is worth watching.

A new arts magazine show needn’t


Julyan Sinclair fails to make his point

3 do all these things to succeed. Just one would be a start. Otherwise there's no

point in making it. And, to be blunt, The Point does none of the above. It has no needle to it. Its reviews are not just Glasgow-centric but late. And the ideas for

the fleeting time-slots it devotes to each item are hardly new.

But it’s the nodding dog inanity of presenter Julyan Sinclair which IS most depressing. Not his penchant for alliteration-littered headlines, but his inability to carry out an interview. There is an art to drawing out the interViewee. Having found someone who has something interesting to say, you need to get them to say it interestingly. Not to make an exciting new project look like a facile piece of

tedious, recycled junk. (Thom Dibdin)

As If

Channel 4, starts in Mar. I were

the latest stage of its expansion after


E4, starts Mon 22 Jan, 4.30pm, 6pm;

It’s getting increasingly hard to remember a time when TV channels stations that made TV programmes rather than ferociously marketed brands. Channel 4 enters

the successful FilmFour with E4. Their new entertainment strand is aimed pretty solidly at that ever-elusive but

Pacily-edited early evening fodder

; ever-expanding yoof market.

The E4 brand’s core product looks like being weekday drama series As /f, \‘.’ITlCIl

. follows six Sixth Formers three boys (one gay), three girls (one black) like a

painstakingly balanced teen band of the future. All six talk Estuary, act badly, mug up nicely for the surreal sequences and go about their lives to a soundtrack of ’alternative’ pop. Gormless Jamie talks about something called ’fenimism' and

tries to pull the distant Nicki. Her mate Sasha goes out With angsty Ben, while

Emily is the bestudded ugly duckling and Alex dispenses advice to all and sundry. So far, so predictable. Still, As /f is Dacily-edited and, in what must be a first for

; any soap, contains almost believable club sequences. On the downside, it's

undemanding early evening fodder with very little to say and no real urge to say it. Should slot in nicely just after Neighbours, then. (James Smart)

l8 Jan—l Feb 2001 THE “ST 101