A cynic might observe that any one-time queen of the Hollywood romantic comedy reduced to starring in a Channel 5 documentary is merely protracting the onset of career oblivion. But. as Meg Ryan excitedly makes known. the prospect of coming face to face With white elephants in Thailand marks the fulfilment of a childhood dream.

Meg 's odyssey begins in Bangkok. where elephants are still adorned and harnessed for local travel. before heading north into rural Thailand to consort with Wild elephants and their Mahoots (breederS). When it comes to mingling with the pachyderm. Ryan is as kooky and Iikeable as yOu'd expect. although her ruminations verge on the banal: 'It's so big. you can feel its power.‘ she breathes at one pOint.

When she doesn‘t meander from her script though. she manages to impart some Surprising details abOut elephant culture and communication. and the relationship wrth human rteigthurs.

(Allan Radcliffe)

DOCUMENTARY J.M. BARRIE & PETER PAN BBC2, Sun 23 Dec, 8.10pm 000

This dreamy. well-

structured documentary's

only real Surprise is that no one has tackled its

l i:

fascinating subject

before. To put it crudely, J.M. Barrie was the J.K.

Rowling of his day.

Through its many incarnations. Peter Pan had made him a millionaire. albeit one who wished he was still a child.

This film chronicles

Barrie's relationship with

The Lost Boys, a family of five lads whom he befriended in Kensington Park in the late 18905 and went on to dote on and protect for the next twenty years. Blake

Morrison. Humphrey

Carpenter, various child psychologists and distant

relatives give their views

on what was either a very creepy relationship or the innocent attentions of a childless man who merely wished to bolster his idealism regarding childhood.

Though nicely shot and edited. this could have been a lot more interesting. ending abruptly just as we are getting a feel for the real Barrie. (Paul Dale)


In theOry. this is a programme that is absolutely fascinating but in practice. is far from it. The concept was to piece together rare and previously unseen footage of Marilyn Monroe and have it narrated directly by her using archive interviews. Admittedly. we do get to see some extraordinary things; for one. colour footage from the set of Some Like It Hot a film shot in black and white with Monroe. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon messing around between takes. However, much of the frequently

1 12 THE LIST tfi Der; 2001-43 Jan 2002

replayed footage (entertaining the troops. her and Jane Russell laying their hands in Hollywood concrete) is pulled out again. lessening the effect.

Underpinned with an ominous 50$ jazz score. Marilyn On Marilyn focuses heavily on the hardship and turmoil throughout Norma Jean's life but all this juxtaposed with Monroe's often uninspired dialogue makes this captivating screen icon sound just plain thick. Very much one for fanatics only. (Mark Robertson)


For all the stigmas that became attached to disco. its legacy has been a hell of a lot more obvious than more werthy genres like prog and punk. And Saturday Night Fever was vital in taking it out of New York's gay clubs and into the mainstream.

It almost didn't happen. though. A few weeks before filming started. there was still no director and the script was in pieces. The scenes in Brooklyn had to be shot in secret locations at 5.30am to avoid Travolta's legions of fans. while the lead actor was rocked by his girlfriend's death in the early stages


Channel 4, Wed 2 & Thu 3 Jan, 9pm em

Anti-heroism chillingly portrayed

It’s not often that you sit watching the opening scenes of a film, dreading the star’s arrival onscreen. Anything featuring Robin Williams or Woody Allen has this effect on me, as does the entire back catalogue of Kenneth Branagh. Every performance the Belfast Bard gives is marginally less subtle than a knee in the guts, mostly involving pulling his mouth in all directions like that small cartoon boy in the ‘Charlie Says’ ads.

Happily, Branagh’s unrestrained style is perfectly suited to the role of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the erratic British explorer who led the ill-fated 1914 Antarctic land crossing. Writer/director Charles Sturridge’s compelling,

atmospheric two-part drama relates Shackleton’s obsession with bettering the achievements of the Norwegian Amundsen, who previously led the first

successful expedition to the South Pole. Halfway through the voyage, Shackleton’s ship, the ironically named

Endurance, became trapped in the ice and had to be abandoned, forcing

the crew to embark on a hazardous journey to the ocean, before seeking

civilisation in lifeboats.

While Shackleton’s expedition meant that he missed out on the bloody destruction of the Great War, Sturridge’s script attempts to paint the explorer as a great leader whose courage and tenacity kept his crew alive for two years. The fact that Shackleton recklessly abandoned his family

and recently imprisoned brother for an ill-conceived project is conveniently

glossed over here.

Ironically, it is Branagh's typically schizophrenic performance that invests the character and the story with the ambivalent edge they require, making his Shackleton a fairly anti-heroic hero. (Allan Radcliffe)

ofshoonng. This C5 retrospective is

essentially a hagiography,

if a pretty entertaining one. And like the film itself it faces one problem that will never go away: that by the time the soundtrack has faded from your ears. it's almost time to set Monday morning's alarm.

(James Smart)

DRAMA MIOAWBER Scottish, Boxing Day, 9.05pm 00“

He's been a COuntry bumpkin. south London entrepreneur, secret

service rodent and bacon f sarnie-loving detective. But the genteel Mr

Micawber is the kind of part David Jason has surely been dreaming of

. for years: there's actually always been something

distinctly Dickensian

about his squat gruffness and theatrical metro-

I tones.

And so. ‘Britain's most

: popular TV actor' (fans of John Thaw would

undoubtedly question

: that) takes on the role of

Micawber with relish; the character originated in David Copperfield and has been given an extended life by Only Fools And Horses writer John Sullivan.

Always ready with a

: wise quip. the legally-

trained Micawber (‘they

named a loophole after ' me‘) gets himself out of

scrapes aplenty thanks to a combination of

bungling bravado and

lady luck. The four parts are all shot very elegantly

' and you may find it hard to take your eyes away

from Jason fora

moment. And with much

of the exterior action

l having being filmed in Edinburgh, you get to

play the ‘guess the

' cobbled street?‘ game.

(Brian Donaldson)

ALSO ON AT NEW YEAR Chewin’ The Fat (BBCI. Hogmanay, 7 1. 75pm) The terribly funny trio do their Scottish wry thing. Viva La Diva (Channel 4, Sun 30 Dec, 9pm) Celebrating pop culture icons from Mae West to Madonna.

Smallville (Channel 4, Hogmanay, 4.45pm) US drama featuring Clark Kent's early years.

3 League Of Gentlemen . (8802, Sun 30 Dec,

70.30pm) Return visit for Royston Vasey's bleak Yuletide message. Britney Day (Channel 5,

New Year‘s Day, 5.25pm)

The Spears story so far.