Television preview RECOMMENDED VIEWING THIS WEEKEND

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The Independent Culture
The Heroin Wars Sat 8pm C4

Dancing in the Street Sat 9pm BBC2

Arena Sun 7.55pm BBC2

Encounters: Bugs Sun 8pm C4

The Three Tenors at Wembley Sun 10.15pm ITV

If the recent Euro 96 footie dust-up, and the sight of hordes of hitherto rational, late 20th-century people draped in the cross of St George, had one pondering the nature of nationhood and nationalism (rather than, say, setting light to BMWs in Trafalgar Square), then this week's Arena (Sun BBC2) might hold a passing interest.

"Passing" might be putting it too lightly, actually, as producer Anthony Wall's film Stories My Country Told Me lasts a groan-inducing three-and- a-half hours - your entire Sunday evening in other words. But then the average Euro 96 match - plus extra-time, penalties and analysis from Ruud Gullitt and Alan Hansen - would have gobbled up only marginally less time.

The backbone of this event comprises four films - Eric Hobsbawm in Vienna, Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the new South Africa, Maxine Hong Kingston in Vietnam and Professor Eqbal Ahmad in India and Pakistan. Austria, Hobsbawm points out, has been passed around more often than a bad case of the flu, and national identity can often be just an ad hoc arrangement with which to sweep inconvenient historical facts underneath the carpet. When are Austrians not Germans, for example? When there are war-crimes trials going on just across the border, that's when. But back to Euro 96, and a quote from William Ralph Inge: "A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and a common hatred of its neighbours." It is probably just as well that we were spared an England v France final.

On the subject of troubled national identities, The Heroin Wars (Sat C4) travels on to Hong Kong, which is where the heroin trade moved after smoking opium became a quaint hobby instead of the mass entertainment it once was. Quite what Hong Kong's new rulers will make of the gangs that now control the worldwide trade in heroin is anybody's guess. Knowing the pragmatic Chinese, they'll work with, rather than against, them. The drugs industry, after all, is not well known for its political idealism.

Bugs (Sun C4) turns out to be a rather over-dramatic title for this week's Encounters film. "Entomologists" might have more accurately conveyed the low-key nature of this documentary, which follows insect collectors from Washington's Smithsonian Institute as they spend 10 days in the virgin cloud rainforest of Ecuador. Many of the specimens collected are previously unrecorded, but the effect is rather muted by the fact that most look like the bit one finds in one's breakfast jam. Our entomologists, however, are also on the lookout for additions to the Smithsonian's "Oh my" collections - so called for obvious reasons. These are the sort of bugs which, if you found them clinging to your shower curtain, would have you bypassing Rentokil and calling out the SAS.

Dancing in the Street (Sat BBC2), rock music's answer to The World at War, takes up the story of the blues - of how a largely ignored black American idiom was taken up by teenagers in British cities and then exported back to the States as The Rolling Stones.

Finally, you don't need me to spell out the pleasures of watching The Three Tenors at Wembley (Sun ITV) in the comfort of your own armchair - dry, pounds 200 to the richer and with a view of Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti unobscured by umbrellas. "O Sole Mio".

The big picture

The Piano

Sun 9pm C4

Holly Hunter (above) has given many fine performances over the years, but her finest was as a mute in The Piano. She expresses a range of emotions without saying a word. In Jane Campion's visually ravishing film, she plays a Scottish widow condemned to a loveless marriage with frigid New Zealand landowner, Sam Neill. She finds comfort at the keys of her beloved piano and in the arms of primal settler, Harvey Keitel. The film won Oscars, but its greatest accolade was a wicked French and Saunders spoof.

The big race

British Grand Prix

Sun 1.10pm BBC2

Damon Hill (above) has a 25-point lead in the drivers' championship, and looks set to cruise to the title. But he must be careful in this weekend's British Grand Prix to avoid the mistakes of last year, when his fixation on his fierce rival, the German driver Michael Schumacher, led their cars to lock wheels and spin out of the race. British driver Johnny Herbert was then able to benefit, and clocked up his first Grand Prix victory in 71 starts. In the hubbub of Silverstone, Hill must aim to have the clearest head at the track.

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