small screen

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
X-traordinary X-ercises

The X-Men (right) have colonised the top Children's BBC slot in a devious coup (Fri 4.05pm BBC1). Professor Charles Xavier's team of outcasts will battle every week against the forces marshalled by the evil Magneto, so for your information and safety, here's an at-a-glance guide to our heroes' powers:

l Wolverine - boasts 3-foot lethally lustrous Adamantium claws!

l Cyclops - shoots eye-beams!

l Gambit - fashions a weapon from anything he touches!

l Jubilee - creates exploding balls!

l Rogue - has superhuman strength, can fly, and can steal the powers of anyone she touches!

l Storm - has psionic ability, allowing her to control the weather!

But, even though they're dedicated to defending the Earth, humanity shuns them. There: tragic sci-fi fantasy with laughs. You can also pore over X-Men Adventures, the 85p comic available fortnightly from your long-suffering newsagent.

Cartoon capers

The Simpsons is BSkyB's most popular show. It draws a weekly audience of 1.2m people: a real barnstormer of a statistic. It's a shame that they are not available terrestrially, as this cartoon family: beehived mum, ill-shaven dad and kids like the infamous Bart (who sparked the fashion a few years ago for T-shirts with slogans like "underachiever and proud of it") are - at least sporadically - pretty funny.

FoxVideo have had the smart sense to cash in on the audience the shows are currently failing to reach by releasing a couple of episodes each of the generational saga on two videos (£8.99, available on 14 May). They contain such delights as Homer's discovery that he has an illegitimate half-brother, a career officer's suggestion that Bart is ideally suited for police work, a mini-golf tourney with the neighbours and the divine moment when Homer receives a letter from Reader's Digest and believes he has won $1m.

Late - but great?

David Letterman (right) is one of those people who pops up in quotation marks all the time. And, of course, made this year's Oscar ceremony almost amusing. In America he's almost as much of a household name as Johnny Carson, though the chatshow he hosts, The Late Show with David Letterman, is a very different kettle of potatoes: rude, or as rude as moral majority programming will allow, and certainly irreverent.

The British public will get a chance to participate in this phenomenon when he flies in to host five live shows for American networking at the LWT centre on the South Bank from 15 May. Sky One follows up by showing each the following night, 16-20 May, at 11.00pm, and BBC2 from 22-26 May at 11.15pm. They will be roaming the streets in the hope of humiliating passers-by, as well as lining up the usual cast of desperate celebs. So if you've never had the pleasure of watching a Stupid Pet Trick, line up that aerial.

Who's a pretty boy, then?

When all that stands between life and a stuffy end in a California gas chamber is the confession of an ageing 24-ounce African grey parrot, you might just conclude that the chips are down. In a new three-part series, Errol Morris's Interrotron Stories (Tue 11.15pm C4), first up is the intriguing story of how a "Parrot May Have the Answer to a Killing". Errol Morris, director of The Thin Blue Line and A Brief History of Time, lends a whole new meaning to the expression "doing bird", with this investigation into the murder of a wealthy businesswoman, discovered with Max the Parrot (right) standing (or perching) as the only witness to the horror. Would the judge let Max testify? Would our feathered friend swear to tell the truth and nothing but? And what's an Interrotron anyway? Boringly, it's a device that allows subjects to look directly into the camera lens while looking at a live image of the interviewer, resulting in "the only true first person film". So no chance for any cageyness on the part of the witnesses.

Compiled by Serena Mackesy,

Steven Poole and Dominic Earle