PREVIEW: INSIDE THE TUBE

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The Independent Culture
Steeplejack Star

It was only a matter of time. Jeremy from Airport reports for Holiday, Ray from Clampers hosts a game show on a cable channel, and Jane from The Cruise has headlined at the London Palladium. Now Fred Dibnah (above), the granddaddy of docusoap stars, has been given his own series. The steeplejack was discovered more than 20 years ago after a lively interview on BBC local news. He went on to appear in such programmes as Fred Dibnah: Steeplejack, which picked up a Bafta award, and singlehandedly make the whole idea of clambering 150 feet up an industrial chimney sexy.

Now he makes his debut as a television presenter with Fred Dibhah's Industrial Age, a new six-part series celebrating Britain's heavy-industry heritage, to be transmitted from Thursday 18 February on BBC2. Visiting such sites as the Finc Foundry in Devon, the Windermere Steamboat Museum in Cumbria, the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley and the Ironbridge Museum in Shropshire, he glories in the birth of the Industrial Revolution. What next? Maureen from Driving School introducing a history of the British motoring industry?

Author, Author!

It promises to be a busy spring for writer Tony Marchant. Not only has he penned a two-part adaptation of Great Expectations for BBC2 (watch for Charlotte Rampling, in her first TV role for several years, as Miss Haversham), he has also written ITV's Bad Blood. In this psychological three-part thriller, Alex Jennings and Lia Williams play a professional couple desperate for a child. When they discover that he is infertile and that they will have an interminable wait to adopt a British child, they opt to search abroad. In Romania, they meet a voluuntary charity worker and disgraced priest (played by that increasingly visible actor, Steven Mackintosh), who effects an introduction to three-year-old Valentin. But, as always with Marchant, the Bafta-winning writer responsible for Take Me Home, Goodbye Cruel World and Holding On, nothing is as simple as it first appears...

Whatever Happened To... John Boy Walton? Richard Thomas (left), the actor who played the eldest Walton child in that most wholesome (read, saccharine) American series, never plunged to the "my drugs hell" depths of some of his fellow cast- members. Instead, he ended up with what many may consider a worse fate: "my TV-movie hell". Since The Waltons hit the buffers in 1982, Thomas has churned in neutral in such eminently forgettable fare as Lust for Murder, a TVM to be broadcast late-night on BBC1 this Wednesday about a husband who is framed for murder by his adulterous wife. Goodnight, John Boy. JR

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