TELEVISION / Small Screen

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Vidal's statistics If you were still harbouring those dreams of America as the land of freedom and opportunity, prepare to be depressed. In this week's God Bless America (Sun 10.45pm ITV), Gore Vidal, liberal thinker and buddy to John F Kennedy, quits his Italian lair to have a sneer at Washington DC. Vidal (right), who once rose to the dizzy political heights of being on Kennedy's Advisory Council on the Arts, sees the centre of government as being more of a "Disney Federal theme park" than a city: "There's a statue to this, a statue to that, a memorial to this and that... it all adds up to a great success story that started to go wrong in about 1950.'' The man, of course, was 25 in 1950. There couldn't be any connection between his jaded view of the current political scene - "I've often thought the CIA took the place over about 12 years ago" - and rose-coloured spectacles, could there?

Feast your eyes The French invented the word voyeur, so it's no surprise that they like making stylish films about peepers. Monsieur Hire, of course, was utterly wonderful, and coming soon on sell-through is another, Claude Chabrol's Le Cri Du Hibou, or The Cry of the Owl (Lumiere, £14.99, subtitles). Christophe Malavoy, looking a bit like a low-rent Gerard Depardieu but acting a storm, plays Henri Forrestier, an artist who spends most of the film working on a drawing of an eagle (obscure avian theme ahoy). For kicks, he takes to watching Juliette (Mathilda May) mooch around her country house. One day, he introduces himself, and she falls hopelessly in love with him, ditching her fiance, Soulages. We can tell Soulages is a baddie because he sports a blond moustache, and he plays to form. He tries to beat Forrestier up and then goes into hiding in order to get him accused of his murder. Arty intrigue follows, with Jacques Penot especially good as the charming but obdurate Gauloise-puffing Commissaire. There's a lot of psychobabble about dreams and death, but this video proves yet again that the French can achieve in their sleep that combination of excitement and sophistication which remains the British film industry's Holy Grail.

Moon, June, spoon It was the beginning of the end for Doctor Who. The incomparable Tom Baker fell off a huge satellite dish. With The Master grinning suavely on the sidelines, we watched in horror as Baker's features changed into those of nice Peter Davison. After that, it was a slippery slope down to the foul Stygian depths of Sylvester McCoy's mickey-take. Davison himself wasn't that bad: his troubling aura of knowing naivete made him an interesting Doctor, and he's an obvious choice to present a new series on popular astronomy, Heavenly Bodies (Sun 11.05pm BBC1). The first programme is all about the moon - "The source of ancient superstitions, or just a serene presence in the sky. The cause of solar eclipses (left) and the pull of tides, the moon matters to us, even in broad daylight,'' Peter says, sprouting a lustrous growth of hair all over his face and wiggling his eyebrows. Can't be a bad thing, we suppose, but let's hope that this doesn't mean that Patrick Moore is going to be wheelbarrowed off, grumbling and unkempt, to a premature retirement.

Fit to be tied Meanwhile, Radio 4 is running a play called Barry Norman's Tie (Tue 4.45pm) by Susie Maguire, whose previous work includes The Day I Met Sean Connery. Seems that Ms Maguire, or her alter ego Marina McLoughlin, has some quibbles with the divine Baz's dress sense. Dress sense? That's not what he's there for, surely? Is he not a demi-god (right), slouching suavely in his chair and ripping American comedies apart with sure hand and weary grimace? Otherwise sensible women have been known to drop their nail files when Barry graces the scree n. Sartorial's not important when you've got sardonic up your sleeve.

Compiled by Steven Poole and Serena Mackesy

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