TELEVISION PREVIEW: RECOMMENDED VIEWING THIS WEEKEND

Bookmark Sat 8.05pm BBC2 Court TV Sat 9pm BBC2 Encounters Sun 8pm C4 Hollywood Angel Sun 11.15pm BBC1 Dr Finlay Sun 7.15pm ITV
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Let's hear it for Bookmark (Sat BBC2), currently enjoying something of a vintage season. After Jilly Cooper, Seventies pulp fiction and the art of literary biography, we have a deft film about the elusive AS Byatt, in which the novelist is seen wrapped up like Paddington Bear against the Yorkshire winter as she revisits a youth spent in Pontefract, Sheffield and on the Yorkshire coast. Byatt bursts into unhappy tears on the first sight of her old school - understandably, though not on camera. It's not that sort of film.

The headmistress of this establishment sounds a rum old bird, given to lecturing the girls on the eve of examinations on the vanity of passing exams. The night in 1990 when Byatt was announced winner of the Booker Prize for her novel, Possession, the now deceased headmistress's portrait fell off the wall.

This particular portrait has been a long time in coming, especially if we compare AS Byatt with her sister. Byatt's maiden name is Drabble and she is, of course, the sister of Margaret Drabble, whom we see, dressed fetchingly a la Mary Quant, revisiting her youth - or that part of it which took place at Cambridge - in a 1968 One Pair of Eyes documentary.

Stay tuned to BBC2 for Court TV (Sat), the series that brings us edited highlights from the 24-hour American cable station of the same name. This week's defendent is a "friendly, jokey" Californian lawyer, who is accused of sexually harrassing his secretary.

Don't worry, Oleanna this ain't, and you can safely watch with the girlfriend/boyfriend. This particular lawyer's idea of being "friendly and jokey" was to come up behind his secretary, slip an arm over her shoulder and press a chocolate into the breast pocket of her shirt. You'd have thought the dry-cleaning bills alone would have been actionable.

Encounters (Sun C4) travels deep into Mike Leigh territory, somewhere in the south London suburban mindset that is forever Croydon, and comes up with a handful of amateur astronomers and all-round anoraks. The point of this arguably rather cruel exercise in documentary-making is that the anorak-astronomers were all going to India to witness last October's total eclipse of the sun, and with a strong element of techno-nerd in their collective make-up, the fun really starts when the equipment packs up. The eclipse itself is awe-inspiring.

Someone at the BBC has rather cannily been backing Susan Sarandon to win an Oscar. Already scheduled long before her triumph last Monday was an updated repeat of the Everyman film Hollywood Angel (Sun BBC1) - a portrait of Sister Helen Prejean, the Catholic nun who works with prisoners on death row in America, and who was played by Sarandon in the film.

And so to Dr Finlay (Sun ITV), now challenging Hamish Macbeth in the Sunday evening tartan escapism stakes. The new series starts with a soldier who has suspected typhoid. At this point I momentarily lost the plot and thought we were about to get an episode about Gulf War syndrome - never mind that Dr Finlay is set in the 1940s. The confusion comes from watching too much TV, I suspect, and expect a flood of litigation soon from brain-scrambled TV reviewers. Anyway, Dr Finlay comes recommended. And no one in it has Gulf War syndrome.

The big picture

Lorenzo's Oil

Sun 8.05pm BBC1

Susan Sarandon got the third of her five Oscar nominations for her outstanding performance as Michaela Odone in Lorenzo's Oil. In George Miller's superior tearjerker, which is based on a true story, she plays a tigress of a mother who, along with husband Augusto (Nick Nolte, above), won't accept that there is no cure for her four- year-old son's apparently fatal wasting disease. Last week the Academy finally recognised her talents by awarding her the Best Actress Oscar for Dead Man Walking.

The big race

The Grand National

Sat 3pm BBC1

Newspapers have been selling office sweepstake kits this week - an indication of what a big deal the Grand National is. People who don't know their horses from their elbow leap into the punting spree with the vigour of thoroughbreds hurdling the Chair (above). The BBC has traditionally made a fine job of the coverage; even when the race had to be called off a couple of years ago, the unflappable Desmond Lynam had one of his finest hours, easing us through the afternoon with only the odd raised eyebrow.

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