Television preview: Recommended viewing this weekend

  • @GerardVGilbert
I'm hazarding a guess here, but I imagine that the one thing that most media-savvy, post-literate people know about Joseph Conrad's Nostromo is that the film director David Lean spent the latter stages of his life plotting to bring it to the screen. Conrad's 1904 novel also fascinated the screenwriter Robert Bolt during the 1960s, but it has taken a combination of British, American, Italian and Spanish money to finally nail the beast. Moreover, given its multi-national funding and casting (from Colin Firth and Brian Dennehy to Claudia Cardinale), and the hugely ambitious nature of the book (the intellectual and political forces which distort individuals and nations), Nostromo (Sat BBC2) is remarkably coherent.

Visually, it's a treat. David Lean would probably have lost his characters in the Andean landscape, but director Alastair Reid keeps the right balance between man and nature - and there's a suitably lush score by Ennio Morricone. Colin Firth, looking muted and sexless minus a smouldering storyline and his Mr Darcy breeches, plays Gould, the idealistic (so you know what's going to happen to him) owner of a dilapidated silver mine in a fictional South American country. His father, the mine's previous owner, was killed by his workers during a nationalist revolution, and Firth is determined to make a success of it, despite the misgivings of Dr Monygham, a broken and sozzled colleague of his papa, played by Albert Finney.

Orson Welles, as far as we know, never wanted to make a movie out of Nostromo. He did, however, want to film Moby Dick, Don Quixote and The Merchant of Venice, according to the TX documentary, The Lost Films of Orson Welles (Sat BBC2). Welles did, in fact, complete shooting Shakespeare's Venetian tale, but the negatives mysteriously disappeared before they could be edited. Judging by what remains, his Shylock is a great loss to the canon of filmed Shakespeare. The Other Side of the Wind, his 1976 film starring John Huston and Peter Bogdanovich (and with enough rapid editing as to make NYPD Blue seem like a still life) is completed but remains blocked by legal wrangles. A lot of the other stuff - taken out of storage for the first time since his death by Welles's long-term companion, Oja Kodar, is the cinematic equivalent of doodling, the by-products of frustrated talent.

The first series of Hill Street Blues (Sat C4), Steven Bochco's innovative and fondly remembered 1980s ensemble police series, begins a rerun and looks as raw as you would expect. This was the beginning of a long experimentation with the genre which has now evolved into NYPD Blue and Murder One.

I was rather struck by the similarities between An Audience with... Bruce Forsyth (Sat ITV) (reminiscences and anecdotes with Tarby, Kenny Lynch and co) and Bragg on America (Sun ITV), with its reminiscences and anecdotes from Jackie Collins, Tina Brown and David Hockney. In fact, they should have called this week's episode Hollywood Melvyn.

Howard Goodall's Organ Works (Sun C4) takes its tone from the schoolboy pun in its title. Goodall is a irrepressibly chirpy composer - he wrote the theme tunes for Blackadder and Mr Bean - and presenter, who lends an unlikely but largely successful populist touch to the story of organs and organ music, bouncing around from the Tyrol to Spain to an east London organ makers. The lad's gone and will go far.