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The Independent Culture
Holding on for tomorrow

To the thirtysomething generation, the grizzled, patrician presenter Raymond Baxter (below) is Tomorrow's World. So it's heartening to learn that he's been invited back to present the 30th birthday edition of what is now the world's longest running science magazine. He appears in tonight's show - which predicts what the programme will feature in 30 years' time - in a rather unusual form, however. "When they told me it was going to be [in effect] a 60th anniversary programme," Baxter recalls, "I said: 'That counts me out. Be realistic, it will be "alas poor Yorick".' So they asked me, 'How would you like to appear as a hologram?' 'Now you're getting somewhere,' I said. This interactive TV set is interrogated by an Oriental child. She selects "Baxter" as a presenter and I appear saying: 'I am the software package formerly known as Raymond Baxter'. It's a brilliant idea." Baxter was presenter for 14 years from the show's inception. It grew out of the rather forbiddingly highbrow Eye on Research. "I thought it would be possible to mount a regular magazine programme at not quite such a high intellectual pitch," Baxter continues. "The aim was to pitch it at the level of universal comprehensibility while not offending our friends in the scientific and technical worlds by over-simplification. We made very good friends in the professional community, and at the same time taxi drivers would say to us, 'You had an interesting thing last night about plastic money. Do you think it will ever catch on?'."

More bats than a big belfry

This week's crop of covetable cassettes, which you can buy in a shop, stroke lovingly and balance a cup of coffee on - or even poke slowly into your VCR aperture and watch - starts with a slew of Batman releases on Warner Home Video. Cunningly riding the pre-release hype-tsunami of Batman Forever, it includes Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns (pounds 6.99 each), as well as animated Batmans. Mask of the Phantasm (pounds 9.99), fr'instance, has old Batty being accused of a series of murders, as well as being heartsick. Or there's Cat and the Claw (pounds 6.99, left), which stars Catwoman; she is unfortunately played by a series of drawings and not the delicious Michelle Pfeiffer. Ah well, bat's life... If you think people pretending to be cave-dwelling rodent gliders is a bit silly, there's also two cool old musicals coming out on MGM/UA at pounds 10.99 each. Broadway Melody of 1938 has Judy Garland warbling her little heart out to a photo of Clark Gable (come again?). Cabin in the Sky, meanwhile, is not the story of a bunch of redneck Daleks and their anti-gravity device, but a milestone all-black musical from 1940, blessed with appearances from Louis Armstrong and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. These tapes all come out on Monday. Hold your breath.

And the law won

Just a little time-out from small screen's usual hyper-rigorous criticism for us to pay our devotional duties to the best programme on television, bar none. Homicide: Life on the Street (Mon 10pm C4) blasted back onto our screens last Monday: it's better than ever, and those nice people at Channel 4 have cleverly slipped it right into that NYPD Blue-shaped hole, now that Sipowicz has been left in peace to go honeymooning. If Andre Braugher (Frank Pembleton) isn't the best actor on television, anywhere, we'll eat our case of Ambre Solaire.

Small, wrinkled stars

Urgh. What's that creepy thing staring out at you from the right-hand margin of this page? That's right: it's a baby. The photo's in aid of the triumphal return of Carlton's "top-rating factual series", Special Babies (Tue 8.30pm ITV). You may have naively imagined that all babies are born equally special, but evidently some are more special than others, by dint of having massive surgery performed on them to correct birth defects. Get 'em used to the camera young, is what we say, and we'll have a nation of Dale Wintons.

Compiled by James Rampton and Steven Poole