Television Review

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The Independent Culture
"I WAS once told," said Kirsty Young in Eclipse Live (C5), "that the difference between seeing a partial and a total eclipse was as different as a peck on the cheek and a long night of passion - so stay with us, because we're going to bring you the full, unedited version of the eclipse." And as the Sun's firm, rounded outline yielded to the Moon's insistent thrusting, the adult tone of Channel 5's coverage continued.

Over on Bodmin Moor, Russell Grant was investigating the mystical significance of this "marriage" of the Sun and the Moon. He had earlier visited the Chief Archdruid of Cornwall, Ed Pryn, to observe rehearsals for the big day: a couple of women druids were dancing around a circle of standing stones in Mr Pryn's garden, to the beating of many drums. "This sound is so sexy," Grant cried. "I mean it can be sexy or sexy-sexy, you know what I mean, it gets you going?" Mr Pryn agreed, adding that the central stone was a phallus: "And when they dance in here, my God, won't they be sexy?"

Grant had also enlisted a fellow astrologer, Martine De La Mer, to analyse the impact of the eclipse on viewers' lives, and particularly their sex lives. Well, Ms De La Mer said, at the moment we had Mars, which is the planet of libido, in Scorpio, which is the sign of sex. "So this is a very high libido energy, and the fact that Saturn is in earthy Taurus makes it even more so, so I think this is quite a sexy eclipse." Or, as Gina Williams observed to Ian Beale on Tuesday night's EastEnders, it was "Be Nice to Slappers Day".

Ms De La Mer had also prepared a personal chart for Kirsty Young, and predicted that links with Saturn - which represents the Establishment - meant that the eclipse would be having a big effect on her career: a move to the BBC, perhaps?

Viewers taking the hint would have found that, in contrast to C5's cod mysticism, the BBC, in Total Eclipse: Live (BBC1), was taking a scientific approach to the issue, having equipped Philippa Forrester with several dogs, a box full of crickets, chickens and a bucketful of owls, to see what effect the eclipse would have on them. Among other things, she wondered what effect the darkness would have on the usually nocturnal owls, though since they were already wide awake and stuck in a tent among all this livestock, it was hard to feel that this was in any sense a meaningful experiment. In the event, the results were not impressive - one of the owls had dilated pupils (although you could have achieved the same effect by putting him in a sack), and the crickets chirruped, but the dogs did not howl.

There is little else to tell: the sky darkened, the temperature dropped, the wind gusted, as they were supposed to, and Patrick Moore said he felt a rather odd breeze. And the pictures of the sun from an RAF Hercules flying above the clouds, broadcast on BBC1 and C5, were good. Beforehand, it was hard to see how such a thoroughly predictable and heavily hyped event could make for magical, surprising television. In the end, those moments of dark did have a certain magic; but despite television, not because of it.

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