Boston. city of civilised tea parties and emaciated self-absorbed attorneys. Who'd have credited it that the ‘Athens of America' could also have played host to one of the States' most ghoulish unsolved crimes. Our Timewatch guide through the 150-year old investigation into the disappearance of Harvard medical professor George Parkman is the ubiquitous Simon Schama. he of the bobbing head and urgent. fruity voice. himself a former Harvard lecturer.

Like all the most engaging academics. Schama furnishes us with visual aids aplenty. some of which verge on the extraneous (I'm quietly confident that most vrewers know what letters and diaries look likei. Actually this case lends itself perfectly to such dramatic historical reconstruction. containing as it does all the ingredients of classic detective fiction.

There's a mysterious disappearance. a victim with a sordid past. and a couple of suspects. including clandestine gra\.ierobber Ephraim Littlefield. while Schama's investigative Journey is itself both imaginative and compelling. lAllan Radcliffe)

DOCt llva N ’lARY CELEBRITY WHEELCHAIR CHALLENGE Channel 4, Tue 17 Dec, 9pm .00

This is not. sadly. the latest extreme installment of reality televrsion where Uri Geller and Les Dennis get their legs broken ‘for

charidee'. What it is. though, is a reasonably effective look at the difficulties faced every day in Britain by millions of disabled people trying to go about their daily lives. Here. three minor- to-middling celebs (Sean Hughes. Tania Strecker and Gaby Roslinl spend two days each in wheelchairs as they attempt to negotiate travelling from Edinburgh to London vra various routes.

The problems they encounter and their reactions make for surprisingly powerful television. as they did in the prOCLirsor to this Show. Celebrity Blind Man's Buff. in which Gail Porter was reduced to tears in a Similar examination of problems for blind people. Put it this way: even the usually toe-Curling experience of watching Gaby Roslin is almost free of irritation. such is the humility and down- to-earth nature of this show. (Deiig Johnstonei

DOCUMENTARY FELTHAM SINGS Channel 4, Tue 17 Dec, 10.30pm 000

The criminal fraternity have been havrng a wail of a time on the box recently. While the impressive BBC drama Tomorrow La Scala.’ was about a production of the Sweeney Todd opera being staged in a maximum security rail and featured real inmates as extras. Felt/ia/n Sings bravely ups the ante.

Here. we have genuine young offenders telling us about their encased lives. partly in iriterVIe\.v but most memorably in song igarage. hip hop and reggae mainly) with lyrics from Yorkshire

122 THE LIST T’/ [)et. Qflb? 7 .Jan 7001:

poet Simon Armitage. Initially amusing. some of the numbers are actually guite strong: the thought that some of the guys inside should sx'xap places with the cultural murderers in the charts is never far from the mind.

But entertaining as the musical moments are. the offenders reveal themselves in the iriter'\./ie‘.vs to be a bit too proud of their vrciousness for comfort and rarely rernorseful. But boy. can some of ttit2rri rzir). iBrian Donaldsoni


THE PARANORMAL PETER SELLERS Channel 4, Sat 21 Dec, 9.30pm 000

Peter Sellers: what a weirdo. Superstitious about the colour green. dependent on daily astrology and tarot readings. he was forever picking up new belief systems and irrational fears from his friends. This intriguing documentary follows Sellers" spiritual guest through his early performance work with the Goons and Eating Studios. onto Hollywood and beyond.

The picture that emerges is of an incredibly suburban. naturally drab man who almost felt he had to take on a number of phobic guirks to make himself interesting. Unfortunatt-zly. a quarter of an hours worth of gossip here s spread very thinly over an hour.

The fact of the matter is that Seller‘s was a human sponge and while this allowed him to submerge many of his ama/ing performances in the social ticks of another person, it also directly affected his mental state. If you are a fan of Peter Sellers li()‘.'.’(}\.’(,’l'. this is fascinating, slightly dish<.-ar'tening stuff. il’aul [)alel

{)l {AMA GOODBYE MR CHIPS Scottish, Boxing Day, 8.30pm .00

Fuddy duddy fuzz within a tender tale

Martin Clunes as idealistic turn-of-the-century Latin teacher Mr Chips? How they must have laughed at the casting conference for this one-off drama, the hilarity only dying in their throats when Clunes’ signature was drying on the contract, and the glaikit child-man was actually popping in

for a costume fitting.

Inevitably, Clunes’ interpretation of Brookfield School’s big-hearted Mr Chipping is characteristically one-dimensional, the badly-behaved one wandering around with his brow furrowed, chins pressed into his inflated chest in a manner surely modelled on Harold Bishop. Amazingly, the actor manages to sustain this rigid stance, even as Chipping ages before our

eyes, from 28 to 83.

But like Harold Bishop in Neighbours, Clunes’ sweet old fuddy duddy is actually pretty true to the gentle, fuzzin old-fashioned nature of James Hilton’s tale. It follows Chipping from his initial awkwardness and lack of classroom discipline, to carving out a role as champion of the scholarship boys, and scourge of Brookfield’s fascist traditions, canings, barellings and

initiation ceremonies.

The World War I sequence, in which Chipping becomes an unlikely inspirational leader is, of course, calculated to stir, but the most enjoyable moments actually take place away from the film’s supporting cast of plump-cheeked, in-bred posh brats with their eyes too close together. Most prominent among these is the amusing scene in which an elderly man gives a tuneless rendition of ‘Come into the Garden, Maud’ at Chipping’s holiday hotel, as well as the teacher’s tentative courtship of Victoria Hamilton’s proto-feminist Kathy. (Allan Radcliffe)

DOCUMl—NIARY ELVIS NIGHT Channel 4, Sat 21 Dec, 10.35pm 000

Another gap in the schedules before the Christmas onslaught and all the programmers can come up with is another ("xi/s Night. Not that there is anything wrong with the King but it would be nice to see something a little more dynamic than this bunch of warmed over clips

and Circumcised mini- features.

There are two highlights of the night. One is the full length version of One Night HUI/l You. which was the second part of his legendary (i8 Comeback show ‘.'./tllCtl saw the pelvis s\'.li\./eller and his old cohorts Carl Perkins and Scotty MoOre sitting on a circular stage in front of the over pri\.iileged. playing a fairly impromptu set. The film exudes an innocence that the MTV Unplugged sessions could never touch.

More interesting is the documentary on the early years. E/vrs: The :36 Special shows our boy in his pro—army, pr'e addiction incarnation and. contrary to popular belief, as an artist totally in control of his destiny. il’aul [)alel


Sending television celebrities into untamed wildernesses to fend for themselves is a great idea. Giving them a diary camera and a means of escape at the end of it is maybe not. Havrng said that. Jack Dee is a cut above the usual vacuous idiot taking part in this sort of thing. At least we