SMALL SCREEN

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The Independent Culture
Last days of the Taj

Richard Burton once boasted that he would have bought Elizabeth Taylor the Taj Mahal if the plumbing had been better. Nowadays the fact that the stonework's shot to hell might be more of a drawback. Tuesday's Without Walls (9pm C4) is an appeal from Saeed Jaffrey (right) to save the marble mausoleum so popular for royal photocalls. Acid rain from Agra's 1500 iron foundries and state oil refinery is eating the building with such ferocity that not only is it turning the colour of a smoker's fingers but it's also likely to fall apart altogether. The government is content to take the tourist dollars and run; potential conservation money is being pumped into a Taj theme park with fast food. A tragedy, to be sure, but a cynic might be driven to ask why we spend such energy bewailing the effects of the tonne a day of sulphur dioxide a day on a lump of stone when there are all those mammalian lungs within range.

The pleasures of the flesh

The average carnivore during his or her lifetime munches happily through five cows, 20 pigs, 29 sheep, 760 chickens, 46 turkeys, one goose and half a tonne of fish. Enough, if reconstituted and revivified by some mad scientist, to make your home a very cramped, noisy and smelly place to live in. Of course, some people not only don't eat meat, but insist on thrusting their unhealthy features at the rest of us and trying to spoil our molar fun. Meat (Tue 9.30pm BBC2) is a new series which kicks off with the ideological duel between veggies and carnivores. Much baring of teeth and waving of lettuce is to be expected. Social anthropologist Dr Garry Marvin joins a deer stalk, so he can find out what it's like to kill an animal, butcher it and then eat it; Steve Connor, Campaigns Director of the Vegetarian Society tries to get a bunch of rugby players to eat tofu kebabs and mushroom pat. The last word ought to go to the Carnivore's Club, though, of which fluffy old Auberon Waugh is a particularly vociferous member. "There's no creature alive which we shouldn't eat," Waugh declares plumply. Hmm. Maybe he'd go nicely with a little barnaise sauce.

Is that a Golden Gun in your pocket?

Whose face has shivered the spines of more pre-pubescent girls than that of any other actor, apart from Mongomery Clift? Christopher Lee's. The fine-boned actor, who has notched up more film credits (234 - count 'em) than any other, has some of his finer moments replayed on Bravo on Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout May, including The Face of Fu Manchu (Wed 10pm) and the incomparably hammy Rasputin the Mad Monk (Thur 10pm), unquestionably the high point of the Hammer studios' output (right). Upcoming attractions include Theatre of Death (11 May), Circus of Fear (18 May) and I, Monster (25 May). You can also buy your own copy of Rasputin the Mad Monk from 22 May (Lumiere, £10.99) and perfect those maniacal eye-rolls. Heh heh heh.

Jusqu' la fin

If you've never seen Blur live, then see Showtime (Sun 5.05pm C4), which records their legendary Ally Pally gig last October. There are fetish- objects galore: Alex James's insouciant fag and fringe; Graham Coxon's tank-top; the drummer's ginger hair... Oh, and Damon, natch (right). He can jump up and down while singing. He is also a devoted follower of French dcadent poetry of the 1890s, as evidenced by the poignant "End of a Century", and he is the Eric Cantona of pop, alone at the top of his field and burdened with wisdom. Or is there something more sinister going on? "Air-cushioned soles," he croons, "I bought them on the Portobello Road, on a Saturday". The casual listener to Modern Life is Rubbish will assume he's just talking about his boots, but what if he's really singing "souls"? Is Damon, in short, Mephistopheles? Is he Satan's messenger sent to corrupt us all with his unearthly beat combo? On second thoughts, don't watch Showtime - you could be damned forever.

Compiled by Serena Mackesy and Steven Poole

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