Television Review

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HONESTLY, IT'S like a dog with a bone. Once broadcasters get hold of the idea that there is a public demand for some genre, they just can't let go. It used to be cookery programmes; these days it's home improvement. For a while there, the public appetite for home improvement programmes seemed inexhaustible. Now, though, a certain weariness has set in, and the programme-makers are having to look for new twists to get the punters in. One direction they can take is more elaborate formats, as with Carol Vorderman's Better Homes, which combined home improvement with the much-loved parlour game "We Paid Ninepence For It Three Weeks Ago And We've Just Had It Valued At pounds 287,000" and big cash prizes.

Another approach is to keep the format simple but aim for increasingly cheeky, cheerful presenters. I suspect that with Rics Martin and Tony Elvin, who present To DIY For (BBC2), this has been taken about as far as it will go - certainly the Bond- parody title sequence, which features the two of them wiggling their hips on top of a selection of giant tools, represents some sort of extreme, and there is a hell of a lot of giggling to put up with. This is a shame, because beneath the wacky exterior this promises to be one of the more useful home improvement programmes: instead of wholesale makeovers, To DIY For concentrates on those finicky little jobs that you're always meaning to get around to. Yesterday Rics, the carpentry specialist, showed one woman how to put up shelves in the toddler's room, while Tony, the plumber, helped another to replace the manky old shower attachment on her bath. Along the way, they both offered admirably clear instructions and gentle encouragement.

This inclines me to think that what we need is some kind of programme improvement programme, in which baffled producers, stuck with a tasteless, awkwardly shaped series, are shown how to strip away the tackily stylised editing, sand down the chirpy script and cover up the insistent Latin beat with hardboard. Voila - smart and functional television! Somehow, I don't see this happening.

Meanwhile, NYPD Blue (C4), always at the soapier end of the cop show spectrum, is being reduced to pure sud, with the discovery that Detective Simone (Jimmy Smits) needs a heart transplant. Frustrated by his partner's plight, Detective Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) has reverted to his bulldog, suspect-intimidating ways. There was a time when Franz's looming, hyper-tense performance was one of the great joys of American-import television, but now it's starting to look ritualised, put-on. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast seem to have grown sleeker and prettier, less like policemen and more like actors in a successful, long-running series, and the plots have just got skinnier and uglier. This week, it was a perfunctory effort involving a prostitute lying about a murder and then changing her mind and telling the truth. On to this uninteresting bit of detective work was tacked a cliched and implausible moral dilemma, as it emerged that the murderer was only trying to protect his crack-smoking daughter. It still looks stylish, but the series is turning criminally dull and lazy. It ought to be locked up.