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RECOMMENDED VIEWING THIS WEEKEND
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The Independent Culture
Really want to know what The Queen was doing while the rest of us were watching her daughter-in-law on Panorama? The Royal Variety Performance (Sat ITV) reveals the awful truth. HM's specs were trained on Sir Cliff Richard, Des O'Connor and Elaine Paige. Duty and sacrifice, see. The rest of us owe no such obligation, so The Big Snog (Sat C4) is the recommended benefit concert of the weekend. Shaking the donation jars for the Aids charities are Eddie Izzard, Steve Coogan (as Alan Partridge and Pauline Calf), Lenny Henry, Harry Enfield, Julian Clary, the Pretenders and Dale Winton.

If John Lennon were alive today, he'd no doubt be sporting a red ribbon in his lapel this weekend - although I'd like to think of him supporting more perverse causes - the US gun lobby, perhaps. The first instalment of The Beatles Anthology (Sun ITV) is the absolute must-see of the weekend, especially for anyone with memory banks reaching beyond the late 1960s. The series is - as a little apple-shaped anti-piracy emblem on the preview cassette kept reminding me - a product of Apple Corps and comes with exhaustive interviews with Paul, Ringo, George and (thanks to clever splicing from the archives) John.

The magic is in the seemingly bottomless wealth of archive footage either handed over by "the boys" (and Yoko) or dug up by researchers - all pristinely restored and ordered chronologically so that we begin at the beginning - Hamburg, the Cavern, "Love Me Do" and all that.

The Beatles Anthology has cost ITV pounds 5 million, making it the most expensive documentary series ever, and it's expected to make Apple Corps 40 times that in world sales. A completely different but equally eloquent reminder of the TV global village comes in the shape of Tx: The Final Kick (Sat BBC2), in which directors were sent to 40 different countries to watch people watching the 1994 World Cup Final between Brazil and Italy. The lingua soccer of the football spectator is pretty much universal, whether it be in a car factory in Tehran, a prison in Belorussia or a living room in Jamaica. My favourites were an elderly couple in Lapland, their reindeer parked on the front lawn, getting quietly stewed on fizzy orange and vodka. The oddest moment is hearing Trevor Brooking's satellite-transported voice in a small village in India.

Jo, the heroine of Karl Francis's Screen Two: Streetlife (Sat BBC2), is a hard-up pregnant single mother from the Welsh Valleys, in love with a philandering married man with Paul Calf looks. Her father sexually abuses her and possibly her daughter, her sister is a smack addict, and she herself earns pocket money by posing for pervy Polaroids. And then, says the synopsis, "her life starts to crumble". The excellent Helen McCrory prevents all this descending into an absurd catalogue of Nineties-style poverty cliches.

The Last Europeans (Sun C4) is Hugo Young's three-part history lesson on Britain's relationship with the European Community - or the Common Market as it used to be called. Jean Monnet, the grandfather of the current EC, puts our schizophrenic attitude down to the fact that while 1940 was our finest hour, it was Europe's darkest. And is it any wonder that De Gaulle vetoed Britain's entry in 1963, when one of his aides overheard MacMillan remark "we shall embrace them destructively"? Plus ca change, as they say over there.

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