I don't want to get too pious about this - in staring it seems to me we dip a toe into the knowledge of our own certain extinction and I'm not quite sure what it would be like to be flatly indifferent to such scenes. It's easy to think of a lot of reasons for not watching - from squeamishness to an imminent departure on an Airbus A320 - but none of them quite amount to a condemnation of those who do watch. And Black Box was undoubtedly compelling - with its cruelly truncated final words ("Oh shit", in a surprising number of cases) and its eerie computer reconstructions of catastrophe. Perhaps it is easier to be equable about the allure of such scenes, because the series was instructive as well as titillating (what else would you call footage of a dead body dangling from a pine tree? How dull does an imagination have to be before it needs that assistance?) After last night's concluding programme about pilot error (neurotic paraphrase: you can't live with 'em, you can't live without 'em) it concluded with a reassuring statistic - despite a thousand-fold increase in air-traffic there has been no increase in deaths since 1947, a remarkable record. "If you were to board a plane at random every single day," said the voice over, "on average it would be 26,000 years before you were involved in a major crash and even then you'd probably survive it." But nervous flyers know that some poor sod has to make up the average, and Black Box's more sotto voce instruction has been absolutely consistent - the problem that kills you is never the one you were expecting.
Respect (ITV), a guileless boxing drama starring Nick Berry, was even worse than Paparazzo, a previous outing from the restrictive charms of Heartbeat. Respect was about an East End boxer, knocked out of the fight game by a detached retina and hitting bottom before remaking his life. I say hitting bottom, but we're talking about a paddling pool - 100 hours of community service doesn't exactly represent the lower depths of depravity and nothing was allowed to remotely endanger the audience's affection for the star - he abhors drugs, won't fake a fight and mistreats his wife with a decorous patience that makes her intransigence positively perverse. The plot and dialogue would have shamed a boy's comic but it did contain one good line in an hour and a half of tedious screen time: "If you don't like sugar, don't stir it," says a policeman brusquely, handing our hero a cup of tea. If the remaining 89 minutes and 55 seconds had matched that for edge and economy and realism it might actually have been watchable.