Preview RECOMMENDED VIEWING THIS WEEKEND

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The Independent Culture
My television exploded on Tuesday - I think it was the OJ Simpson verdict. There's still the 12-inch in the kitchen, but that doesn't quite solve the Rugby Problem.

Grown men up and down the country may be staying away from Wembley in droves, they probably don't even like rugby league, but that won't stop them monopolising the set for England vs Australia (Sat BBC1) while more sensitive souls would rather spend the afternoon with Trevor Howard on BBC2. Video recorders are all very well, but that is precisely how to end up with a small, dusty pile of Trevor Howard tapes.

On top of them there will soon be an unwatched copy of Kenneth Branagh in Sean O'Casey's The Shadow of a Gunman, which begins a new series of Performance (Sat BBC2). Branagh plays the young Irish poet, with a rusty typewriter and thick accent to support, and Bronagh Gallagher is on fine form as the young girl, starving in the next-door garret, who tragically mistakes him for an IRA man. Fine enough in its way, but can it compete with Kind Hearts and Coronets? Or Casualty, for that matter?

Frank Skinner's disappointing "newsy" comedy series draws to its close this week and its memory is sure to be instantly eclipsed by a new batch of Rory Bremner - Who Else? (Sat C4). As before, the show was filmed only yesterday - a piece of brinkmanship that sometimes produces a topical tour de force from Bremner. The comedian's cast-iron ratings earn him blanket coverage, but C4 still fondly remembers its old brief of catering for minorities. Only now the programmes serve a dual purpose: airtime for minority lifestyles and a peephole for the voyeurs amongst the rest of us. The latest six-week venture features various groups of so-called modern "tribes". Tribe Time (Sat C4) looks at a rather grubby houseful of globetrotting Australians, and a group of skinheads who would like to protest at being typecast as racist thugs.

It's not a good weekend for prejudices all told: tomorrow's Timewatch (Sun BBC2) sets out to rehabilitate the Vikings, a gentle, mild-mannered people who eventually turned into the Swedes, who took saunas and made movies - sometimes at the same time. The Swedish influence on film-making is featured in Cinema Europe (Sun BBC2). Drawing on a long and impressive theatrical tradition, the early Swedish directors created beautiful films of extraordinary freshness and naturalism. Sadly, like the Vikings, they needed new worlds to conquer, and Sweden's film-making talent haemorrhaged to Hollywood during the 1920s. On one of the boats West were Mauritz Stiller and his plump, ungainly protegee, Greta Gustaffson - who was soon to emerge from a chrysalis of mud packs and body wraps as the divine Garbo.

Talking of body wraps, the divine Luciano Pavarotti is 60 next week (Thursday, since you ask, and no, I'm not going). To celebrate, he treats himself to a massage and cologne rub with Melvyn Bragg, who joins him in his lovely Adriatic home to discuss his musical development in The South Bank Show (Sun ITV). After a short half-hour rest you might want to think about catching two more hours of the celebrated tenor in a performance of Aida filmed at La Scala in Milan. Or you could if you had two televisions: one of you is certain to want The Bat Whispers.

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