Help seems to be at hand, though. A major tranche of alternative viewing comes gift-wrapped under the title Docs on the Box (Sun BBC2), one of those themed evenings on which BBC2 seems ever more keen. Take the wrapping off, however, and the contents are a touch disappointing, one new documentary - a history of the TV medical drama - and a load of old repeats. The documentary, Playing Doctor, does throw up a lovely quote from Alan Alda, though: "Imitation is the sincerest form of television." If he coined that, Alda can go to his grave a happy man. As for the selected epsiodes of Dr Kildare, Casualty, MASH and Dr Finlay's Casebook, I chose Dr Kildare (Sun 8.05pm) - being a series I'm just young enough not to remember. Compared to ER's Anthony Edwards or Casualty's Clive Mantle, Richard Chamberlain - as the eponymous medic - is pretty vacant, and it's hard to see what inspired 35,000 females to write to him every month. Surround Chamberlain, as in this episode, with such well-rounded thespians as James Mason and Margaret Leighton, and he looks like a puppet Gerry Anderson discarded from Thunderbirds for being too wooden.
Clive Owen is an actor who I am always surprised doesn't generate more fan mail. Maybe the characters he plays are always just a bit too arrogant to generate fanciability. Anyhow, this aloof persona lends itself well to his South London private eye, Nick Sharman, in The Turnaround (Sat ITV). Sharman has a sexy soul-singer girlfriend, indulges in the odd spliff of ganga and has lost several Armani shirts on the greyhounds - but, essentially he's a direct descendant of Philip Marlowe, and happily Owen plays the tough guy irony-free. Where Marlowe is a romantic at heart, though, one suspects that the closest thing to Sharman's heart is a copy of this month's Arena magazine.
The best of the rest involves sectarian violence in Northern Ireland and life in breadline Britain. Graham Reid's The Precious Blood (Sat BBC2), is a first-rate Screen Two and I highly recommend it. Amanda Burton plays a Belfast woman whose husband was shot dead by terrorists in their bed 12 years previously, and whose teenage son is now embarking on the rock- strewn road that leads to the ranks of the Protestant paramilitaries. Enter Kevin McNally as an amateur boxing coach and born-again Christian, who's finding it harder than he hoped to forgive himself for his previous existence as a UVF hitman.
Tales from the Wasteland (Sun C4) brings us more of the walking wounded from post-Welfare State Britain, including a half-blind diabetic from a Leeds council estate and a woman from Hartlepool with only 40 pence in her purse to last her through the weekend. If that sounds too grim, you can always switch channels and watch 22 millionaires and potential millionaires kicking a piece of inflated leather around.Reuse content