Channel 4, Thu 23 May, 9pm 0000

Society's uncaring attitude to the elderly might be a sOurce of comedy in The Simpsons. but the reality is a damn sight less funny. Watching Old is a profoundly depressing experience. as It examines the mistreatment of Britain's old people at the hands of relatives. the government and a generally uninterested SOCiety.

Among the startling stats thrown up are that two and a half million OAPs live below the poverty line. and the decomposmg corpses of 1000 old people are discovered in their homes every month. But the really powerful stuff comes from the penSioners they interView. a ragtag collection. struggling to retain some semblance of dignity in horrendous. insulting circumstances.

Things are Summed up neatly by 76-year-old Fred. a wartime undercover agent. now living in a ten feet by seven feet room in a homeless hostel: ‘This is of c0urse something you get used to. othenvise yOu'd soon go mad.‘ iDOug Johnstonei


BBC2, Tue 28 May, 9pm 0...

In the latest instalment in Simon Schama's epic travelogue. he turns his animated and slightly camp eye on the close of the 18th century and the opening years of the 19th. Like most destinations. it's a land of contrasts. as revolution

turns to reaction and back again.

The programmes success is to weave larger themes and biographical evidence to produce a mosaic that combines colour and detail. setting Mary Wollstonecraft's unhappy life alongside her groundbreaking feminist doctrine. and charting Wordsworth‘s political iburney from solidarity to solitude. The industrial revolution. the French Republic. the abolitionist movement and the Napoleonic wars are all explored.

While Schama darts from event to event in rather too rapid a manner. and is occasionally prone to talking in headlines and exclamation marks i'When Paine shouted. people listenedl'l, this is still an impressively coherent and insightful overview of a mightin excmng part of the last millennium. iJames Smarti

DRAMA SERIES DOUBLE ACT Channel 4, Sun 2 Jun, 5pm 00.

Remember Jackanory’? Probably not. but here's the 21 st century equivalent. cheaply made drama (shot on digital) that's based on popular children's books of the moment.

Ruby iZoe Tempest- Jones. and Garnet (Chloe


Tempest-Jones) are identical twins who. Since their mother's death when they were small. have been cared for by their father and grandmother. When their dad's new girlfriend Rose enters their life. he decides they should move to the countrySide and open a bookshop.

Angry at having to leave their gran behind. they decide to make Rose's life hell. making as many enemies as they can in the new village.

Based on Jacqueline Wilson's book. this is well acted and edited to give it a zesty pace to keep the kids watching. Double Act also boasts one of the lovely Charlotte Coleman's final performances as the much put-upon school mistress Miss Debenham. (Paul Dale)

COMEDY SERIES WILL & GRACE Channel 4, Fri 31 May, 9.30pm 000

This sitcom. about the relationship between a gay busmessman and his platonic roommate. was hailed as groundbreaking in its native America. Viewed in the light of European series such as Queer As Folk, Will a Grace is the Uncle Tom of

8802, Wed 29 May, 9pm 0...

Violent deaths are ten a penny on TV, whether in drama or as reconstructed versions of notorious real life events. This new four-part thriller was conceived as a response to the staid formula of police dramas and, judging by its no-nonsense title, purports to be the last word in murder


Cutting directly to the chase, the opening reel shows the victim, a cheeky young Arsenal fan who loved his ol’ mum, crawling around in a slick of his own blood, having been battered to a pulp the day after his 21 st birthday. Flashing back and forward between events leading up to and before the murder, each episode focuses on a different member of the dead man’s circle, as well as those caught up in the investigation.

Chief among these is Julie Walters who ditches her usual bag-lady/tart-with-heart personae in favour of barely controlled grief as the mother of the murdered youth. The first episode revolves around local hack David Morrissey, who worms his way into the family home, and wreaks havoc for the sake of the sensational front page he feels will redeem his own chaotic home-life.

Murder is indeed a cut above your usual contemporary whodunnit. What elevates the series above its peers is the script, which gradually elucidates each of the central characters’ complex motivations, as the mystery is unravelled. And familiar faces such as Walters and Imelda Staunton - better known for scenery- chewing excess - get the chance to underplay in strongly written roles. (Allan Radcliffe)

106 THE LIST 23 May—ii} Jun 21):)?

gay Culture. with not a speck of spunk or a sqwrt of KY to be seen.

In the first episode of this second series. uptight Will and kooky Grace have begun a trial separation, with Grace movmg across the hall to prove her independence. While the wisecracks come thick and fast. the low recurring characters W&G. flamboyant pal Jack and rich bitch Karen - merely have to Open their mouths to provoke screams and applause from the 'live studio audience'. which may prove baffling for non- devotees.

lntermittently amusing. the overriding impression. as the barbs fly back and forth, is how exhausting it would be to be part of Such a group of sitcom friends who so clearly hate each other. (Allan Radcliffe)


Channel 4, Tue 28 May, 11pm 0000

This viciously dark American prison drama usually goes Out in the Witching hour so it's good to see it return to the schedules before midnight. Now in its fouith series. this first episode - A Cock And

Bull Story picks up where the last series left off.

The two week lockdown finally ends With Hamid Khan's body being taken off life Support. Another inmate commits suicide in solitary. this time by eating himself. Governor Devlin is considering a career in politics and new inmates Mobay and arty Guilliame Tarrant face very different initiations.

As always this is tightly written by Tom Fontana. constantly teetering on the edge between tremul0us soap and nightmare gritty drama. With its cheeSy editing and use of low end video cameras for its flashback sequences. this shouldn't really work but it does. The second best drama on HBO's current roster. after The Sopranos of course. (Paul Dale)

DRAMA SERIES BERTIE & ELIZABETH Scottish, Tue 4 Jun, 9pm 00.

While most channels are churning out stuffy old dOCUmentaries to

A cut above the staid crime drama formula

'celebrate' this landmark year for the Royal Family. good old ITV has plumped for some period drama monarchy-lovin'.

So. this story begins with the dear old Queen Ma (Juliet Aubrey) in her days as a youthful flapper. hooking up with the notorious stammerer. soon to be George VI (James Wilby). Our current leader is show in episode one as a mere swaddling in arms but the series moves on to follow the horsy ones through a generation taking in the major events of the 20th century.

The dreadful pomposity of the regals gets yOur goat from the off. and their sense of humour (naff) has the effect of making the drama feel more awkward than it ShOLild. However. things move up a pace when the gruff George V (Alan Bates) croaks it while honourable mention should be made of the mole on Wallis Simpson's chin which is the centre of its own hairy universe. (Brian Donaldson)


Eurovision Song Contest (BBCI. Sat 25 May. 8pm,) Wogan mumbles acerbically throughout the tackfest. Topranko! (Channel 5, Mon 27 Mai: 7pm) Tony Wilson hosts a new holiday game show. Plain Jane (Scottish. Mon 27 8 Tue 28 May. 9pm) Edwardian drama from Lucy Gannon. Pornstar (Channel 4, Mon 27 May: I l.05pm) The true st0ry of diminutive 'fllm' star Ron Jeremy.

Mark Thomas‘ Secret Map Of Britain (Channel 4, Wed 29 May. 7 7.05pm) The radical stand-up tells us where the government doesn't want us to go.