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recommends The Chest Sat 9.10pm ITV

Homicide: Life on the Streets Sat 10.30pm C4

Let's face it, if you grow up in a house with 17 toilets, there's more than a fighting chance that you'll disappear down one of them before too long. This is a probability that seems to have escaped Constant Bradley, the spoilt and violent son of a powerful Irish-American family in A Season in Purgatory (Sat, Sun BBC1). Expelled from school for harbouring pornographic pictures, he then proceeds to batter to death a 15-year-old girl. Does this stand in the way of his glittering political career? Of course not. The only question is, can his noble yet poor childhood friend step in to change the course of history? Occasionally clunking dialogue and missing chunks in the plot shouldn't stop you wanting to find out, in this hard- to-hate mini-series which floats past painlessly enough.

If avoiding distress is the main criterion of your weekend's viewing, then the first of three parts of Vote Now, Pay Later (Sun BBC2) is to be avoided. Presented by BBC economics editor Peter Jay, this relentlessly hammers home the point that Britain's Welfare State is disappearing down the nation's plug hole. Case study after case study is wheeled out to demonstrate the widening gaps in the social structure. The message? Whoever triumphs on 1 May, whatever their pre-election promises, will find it well nigh impossible to provide us with adequate health, education and social security.

Depressed? Then cheer yourself up temporarily with a dose of Boys' Own baloney. The second of four offerings in ITV's Comedy Premiere season, The Chest (Sat ITV) is an old- fashioned tale of buried treasure and modern-day treachery. Neil Morrissey is in typically fluffy bunny form as John Croft, a hopeless dreamer and near bankrupt who seeks redemption through Spanish gold. But it is the beautifully battered and ridiculously talented Jim Carter who steals the show, resplendent in leather blouson as treasure hunter Roland Blood. And wonderful as he is at wounded villains, isn't it about time he got to play a romantic lead?

Those seeking love may find inspiration in Everyman: Soulmates (Sun BBC1), a film examining the dilemmas of singles looking for a partner of the same religion. Those of us whose requirements of a mate have plummeted from dizzying Byronic heights to "must have a pulse" may be surprised at the pickiness of these particular subjects. For Susan, a fiftyish divorcee, sculptress and committed Christian, her man would ideally have hair, a sense of aesthetics and share her religious beliefs. As a woman from a dating agency gently points out, the prospects for women over 50 are thin. The men in this particular market are generally older and calling the tune. But as Susan rightly retorts, she has no desire to go out with her father.

Which brings us to the beating heart of the weekend, the dramatic highlight to see you through no end of April dross. As Homicide: Life on the Street (Sat C4) swings confidently into its fourth series, a Saturday night in seems less like a disaster, more like good sense. Deprived of the first two episodes of this Baltimore-set police drama because of their close resemblance in detail to the Dunblane killings, we picked up last week with detective Frank Pembleton returning to work after his untimely stroke. As the saturnine detective in the previous series, Andre Braugher brought charismatic intensity to wildly new levels. As the damaged shell of a man struggling to recover his pride and his career, he is quite simply astounding.