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Throughout the summer we were carpet-bombed by war anniversary documentaries. All sorts of initials were dropped on our heads: D Day, VE Day, VJ Day. And now autumn is here, we are subjected to a new weapon: films inspired by the anniversary celebrations themselves. What more could they add, you thought to yourself, wearily climbing into the air-raid shelter once more.

In the case of Timewatch: Kamikaze (BBC2 Sun), a surprising amount, it turned out. The film took as its starting point the reunion of survivors of Japan's strategy of suicide, gathering in Tokyo this summer to remember their comrades who, in the last couple of months of the war, bought a one-way ticket out of their local air-strip.

"It meant divine wind," said one American sailor who suffered from kamikaze attack, eyes watering as he recalled the terror of it. "But there wasn't much divine about it." Plenty of wind, though, you imagine, as young men by the thousand climbed aboard Zeros and plummeted to their deaths on the decks of American aircraft carriers. It was an awful trade, spurred on by an odious mix of religious fervour and jingoism generated by those - newspapermen, politicians and generals - who had no intention of getting near a plane themselves; a desperate, callous gamble that has lingered in infamy far more intently than aspects of the war which claimed many more lives (1,915 Japanese and 5,000 Allied servicemen died as a result of kamikaze raids).

Those pilots who survived had bizarre tales to tell: of being trained but not being ready before the war ended, of just missing out, of climbing into planes that were found to be faulty and then missing their turn in the queue. Or, in the case of wing commander Tadashi Nakajomo - the sole survivor of the original kamikaze squad - never getting to fly because his job was deemed too important: he was the guy who persuaded pilots to volunteer. Such are the rewards of management.

But the most astonishing tale was left till last. In a smart piece of investigation, the film tracked down what happened to Mr Ota, whose original idea the whole policy was based on. Mainly because of his own incompetence, Ota spent the latter stages of the war constantly volunteering for the big flight and constantly being turned down. He never got to fly a mission. After Japan's capitulation, such was his shame at failure he severed all his ties, changed his name, and died in misery a couple of years ago, the last victim of the collective insanity he had initiated.

An air-raid shelter might have been the sensible option when watching An Audience with Shirley Bassey (ITV Sat), since the moment she opens her mouth, its star is capable of pinning her entire front row to their seats with the G-force. After bashing out her opening number, Shirl asked the celeb turn-out gathered at her feet for a question, any question, the more personal the better. And the first person to ask her one ("So how come a superstar like you finds time to pay their paper bill?") was none other than Barbara Knox (aka Coronation Street's Rita Sullivan). Across the country, gay couples mewed in excitement. Here was the biggest meeting of camp heroines since Lily Savage was recruited to front the musical version of Prisoner Cell Block H.

It was frocks to the fore round our way, too. In the big Sunday night ratings battle, crinolene won out over criminal psychology. The courtship between D'Arcy and Lizzie was too delicately poised to be ignored for another day. So, while the two of them circled each other like randy pigeons as Pride and Prejudice (BBC1) reached its climax, Robbie Coltrane and Cracker were squeezed on to the video. For a man of his substance, it was not a comfortable place to be.

Thomas Sutcliffe returns tomorrow

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