Television Review

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"Hi - it's Nick Higham - are you going to let me in?" No way, you thought, staring into a face which looked like a Jack Straw fright mask that had been left on a radiator. A fish-eye lens had converted the features of the BBC's media correspondent into a terrifying caricature. This was not, naturally enough, intended to be off-putting, rather to reassure first-time viewers of The Technophobe's Guide to the Future (BBC2) that their enlightenment was going to be fun. In furtherance of this message Higham, reporting on biometric security devices, then pretended to be a spy in a secret installation, turning his collar up and doing a Pink Panther tippy-toe down the corridor. Nick Higham, it's worth remembering, is the man who has the unenviable task of reporting on those occasions when the BBC itself is in the news - a job that requires steady nerves and Blondin's sense of balance. He does this with an entirely enviable sang-froid, so the thought occurred that his new assignment might actually be a sly punishment for stepping on the wrong toes - an act of revenge disguised as an opportunity.

The Guide itself is a little difficult to weigh up, too. BBC2 already has, or did have, a perfectly good computer and technology magazine, The Web, so it isn't presumably intended to appeal to netties and pixel-necks. Nor is it a grown-up version of Tomorrow's World, being rather more coaxingly jolly in its manner than that venerable future-gazer. In fact, the first four items didn't even reveal whether the programme's ambition is to reduce technophobia or to increase it, splitting neatly between films which advertised the glories of the life to come and those that suggested that new technology might not always operate to our advantage.

Higham's piece, on the devices designed to recognise our fingerprints, voices, hands or even smell, fell somewhere between the two, gee-whizzing at the technology of eyeball identification, but coming to the conclusion that there was some way to go before the pin-number would be obsolete. Fi Glover delivered an interesting report on how companies are now able to undercut BT on the cost of international telephone calls (though it proved something of a distraction to find that all her test calls seemed to be to radio stations in Australia - if she's planning to emigrate, not a few listeners to Greater London Radio's breakfast programme will find the immediate future a bleaker place). Dominik Diamond brought to the show the adolescent innuendo he pioneered on Gamesmaster, and warned us of the ease with which the unscrupulous can eavesdrop on our answering machines. Pauline Quirke played useful idiot, mugging her way through a guide to buying your first computer. I wasn't a technophobe when I started watching, but I might contemplate becoming one if technological advance brings with it this degree of placatory condescension.

The production team could learn some lessons from Moving Pictures (BBC2), an unfussy magazine programme which takes as read the appetite of its audience and disciplines its wit to serve the subject. Last night's episode included a slightly disappointing video-diary from Mike detailing the run-up to the Oscar awards. This was a good idea which didn't quite come off, but the package on Twelve Monkeys was larger than the sum of its parts. A more conventional film programme would simply have presented the film as "the latest from Terry Gilliam". Moving Pictures rattled auteur theory on its shaky stand by detailing the film's complicated genesis - from Chris Marker's cult art film, La Jetee, through a passionate producer and two committed script-writers, all of whom brought new things to the work. It also used extracts from the film as a wry commentary on its creation, rather than the hard-sell clips which are more commonplace. The programme gives you film as a process, not just a product, for which one can only be grateful.

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