these tricks like sticking his hand through a jewellers window or swallowing a small snake only to make it reappear in a fraught teenager's rucksack are actually happening or are just some grand conspiratorial illusion is tough to tell. But it's barnboozling fun nonetheless.

(Brian Donaldson)



Channel 4, Tue 3 Dec, 10.35pm 0000

The phenomenon of reality television tOOk a surreal and unpleasant turn when 30 people gave up their jobs and houses on the promise that they w0u|d live for a year as stars of a ‘new reality TV show'. They went on auditions and turned up in a London park to discover there was no such programme being rnade.

This brief description does not do The Great Rea/ity TV Swindle justice. This is a car crash of a programme part Blair Witch Project. pan wonky punchline from Faw/ty Towers finding many people having to deal with being literally left up shit creek by a so-called TV producer.

The truly odd thing is that this was no scam nor a covert money- making or exp|0itation scheme. just the work of one inept and quite possibly disturbed yOung man. And as it's all absolutely true. it makes this the zenith of the cheQuered genre. (Mark Robertson)


Channel 5, Tue 3 & 10 Dec, 9pm 00.

Had the Battle of Britain

not gone Churchill's way.

Hitler‘s dreams for Britain would have almost certainly been


realised. Through archive footage. reconstructions and interviews. Hitler's Britain explores what might have been.

Shown in two parts. the programme’s strength lies in its use of detailed Nazi

IAN RANKIN’S EVIL THOUGHTS Channel 4, Sat 30 Nov, 7.05pm 000.

documents. some of which have been translated for the first time. There's the Guide for Troops in Occupied England. the Nazi Special Search List which catalogued names of perceived enemies of the Third

A blessing in disguise

This issue’s opinion column rails against the rise and rise of trivia TV,

castigating the dominance of a form that values the ephemera of personality

over the substance of thought. I don’t know if it’s going to bring civilisation to its knees, but it’s true to say that when you look at Ian Rankin's new

three-part series in the context of Celebrity Big Brother, Pop Idols and Fame

Academy, it comes as a considerable shock. A very welcome shock too, because it’s based on what appears to be an ever more radical premise: the discussion of ideas. For as soon as the Rebus author sets about coming to terms with evil - that malevolent force that haunts the working life of his fictional detective - he opens up a fascinating philosophical debate. Evil, as he points out, is one of those words we throw around carelessly.

Politicians use it against politicians, tabloids use it against paedophiles and the pious use it against the irreligious. But does it exist? Is there a devil? Are

there lots of devils? Or is the devil inside? Simple questions, but they draw Rankin into a compelling series of

encounters with eccentric academics and animated clergy who discuss evil

down the ages. Apart from a priceless moment when the Vatican’s chief exorcist gives Rankin a blessing, complete with crucifix kissing, the presenter keeps a straight face and pursues his subject in the spirit of

earnest enquiry.

It’s not dumb and it’s not highfalutin’; it’s just a devil of a good programme.

(Mark Fisher)

3% if" 1"” 'I I .7’ t

Reich and the Nazi Guide to Great Britain which exposed plans for the intended murder of Jewish e'migre's.

In part two. Churchill's network of resistance is revealed. The surviving hand-picked civilians tell their story after years of silence while experts speCLilate on how they w0u|d have fared. Despite being a fictional acc0unt. Hit/er '3 Britain is based on hard facts. That alone makes it all the more chilling.

(Helen Monaghan)

98 Nov


BBCZ, Tue 10 Dec, 9pm 0000

It's only when you see a really good piece of drama that you realise how much on television is dross. This BBC— rnade film is very much in the former camp. and is quite simply a superb piece of moving. funny and intelligent drama exeCuted with subtlety. skill and conviction.

Jessica Spaced Stevenson is excellent in the lead role as Victoria. the director of an aspiring opera company attempting to put on a performance of Sweeney Todd in a maximum seCurity prison With the help of lifers incarcerated there. The reSultant clash of cultures is handled carefully and cleverly by writer and director Francesca Joseph. wrth all the usual dramatic cliches banished from Sight.

Full of brilliant. natural penonnances throughout. and with an extremely tight script which is both hilarious and disturbing. Tomorrow La Scala.’ is a shining example of BBC drama at its best.

(Doug Johnstone)

12 Dec 2002 THE LIST 1 13