TODAY'S TELEVISION

Gerard Gilbert recommends Born to Run Sun 9.35pm BBC1
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The Independent Culture
It's a bank holiday weekend, and where there's a bank holiday weekend, a theme night is never far behind. Those Pavlovian schedulers have this time given us a choice between old sitcoms and kung fu movies, with Channel 4 going for a three-night "sitcom weekend" and the BBC - for one evening only - presenting Kung Fu Night (Sat BBC2).

People (men?) in their mid-to-late thirties will best recall the kung fu craze which swept into Britain on the heels (and elbows) of Bruce Lee in 1973, although martial arts movies have maintained a steady following ever since. And any casual observation of schoolkids gathered at a bustop will reveal five-, six- and seven-year-olds kick-boxing their peers. Ninja Turtles absorbed that with their mother's milk, you see.

Situation comedies are obviously more universal in their appeal. Sandwiched between thick crusts of old sitcom repeats and movie spin-offs are three documentaries, Has Anyone Seen My Pussy? (Sat C4): innuendo in 1970s British sitcoms; Tickled Pink (Sat C4): the current flirtation with gay characters in US sitcoms; and Luvvly Jubbly (Sun C4): profiles of a trio of obsessive sitcom fans. The latter features a woman who travels the country baking cakes for John Inman, who played camp-as-a-scout's-tent shop assistant Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served?; a retired chap who dresses up like Compo in Last of the Summer Wine, and, by far the darkest of the three, a young married man fixated on the locations where Steptoe and Son was filmed. She didn't know about this when they married, says his wife, tending to the children in a different room.

There are also four shorts featuring Matt "Shooting Stars" Lucas and Bob Mortimer spoofing the modern American sitcom. These are funny up to a point, and then tip over into the wrong sort of hysteria. They seem very angry about something, and oddly anti-American, and add to the general feeling that emanates from the weekend of a reaction against slick US sitcoms and a nostalgia for the days of George and Mildred and Are You Being Served? The trouble is that those days have gone. Just look at The Thin Blue Line, which tries to recapture them. Oh, you like it. I'm so sorry.

Elsewhere, Born to Run (Sun BBC1) is a new six-parter from Debbie "Riff- Raff Element" Horsfield, one of TV's few truly individual voices, who writes busy human dramas crowded with vibrant, three-dimensional characters. Set in the north without falling into the northern whimsy of Wokenwell or All Quiet on the Preston Front, it revolves around the monstrous Flitch family, owners of a second-hand classic car dealership. When their control- freakish patriarch (Terence Rigby) suffers a heart attack while singing karaoke, his brood are set free in all sorts of unexpected directions. Billie Whitelaw, Keith Allen (surprisingly good) and John McArdle lead the cast.

Now, my friends think I am sad critter, principally for believing that there is something (although I'm not sure how much; don't send me crystals yet) in astrology - the idea that one's character can somehow be affected by the postion of the cosmos. I was expecting Everyman (Sun BBC1) to side with my friends on this one. Instead, it clears the stage for a history of astrology and a succession of Christian astrologers to make their case for reconciling a belief in an omnipotent God with a belief that the fact that they were born with the sun in Capricorn is somehow significant. I'm just not looking forward to the Age of Aquarius, that's all. I mean, have you seen Hair?

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