TODAY'S TELEVISION

Peter Conchie recommends Everyman Sun 10.35pm BBC1
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As you are by now no doubt aware, Elvis Aaron Presley died 20 years ago today. Each subsequent anniversary has had its own significance for legions of his lonesome fans. The first brought home the reality of loss for some, the 10th marked a cathartic rite-of-passage from lost hero to legend for others. But for Elvis, the number 20 carries a weightier tag altogether, being roughly his weight in stone when he died.

A repeated Arena "The Burger and the King" (Sat BBC2) celebrates Presley's obsession with saturated fat, which grew out of a impoverished Depression childhood, and was fuelled by his adult discovery of cheeseburgers and endless fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches. An unhealthy case of over-compensation for a youthful diet of fried squirrel and chicken feet. This is presumably not the Elvis that his devotees mourn each August, but the interviews with his cooks, room-service adviser and doctor convince you that, in later life, food really was the only thing that gave him any pleasure. The fact that it took three undertakers to carry him away tells you just how much.

If all that seems to desecrate the sequinned shrine of memory, John Peel leads the sermon in the thoroughly entertaining "Elvis and the Presleytarians", an Everyman special (Sun BBC1), which examines the quasi-religious behaviour of his bereaved fans. Theologian Karen Armstrong describes the phenomena as "a fascinating example of the way a religious enthusiasm grows" explaining the deification of Elvis by his disciples as a function of their ritualistic behaviour, such as the "pilgrimage" to his Graceland home. But claiming that the Gospel is a myth, a mere foretelling of the rising of Elvis, may be as hard to swallow for conventional believers as a stick of celery was for the King. Presley impersonators (most of the later incarnation) are high priests of a new religion, members of which claim the risen Elvis has been seen. But with all those lookalikes, how would you know you'd seen the right one?

An altogether stronger branch of burgeoning American faith features in the last of the impressive series of Planet Islam (Sun BBC2). The fastest growing religion in the US is attracting mostly, the programme suggests, disadvantaged African Americans - in some jails one in three inmates have converted to Islam, Mike Tyson being a recent recruit - and may effect social change in much the same way as the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Islam rejects the melting pot and advocates the mixing bowl; an independent, self-sufficient identity is the aim, with black Muslims encouraged to set up businesses to staunch the haemorrhage of money from inner-city communities.

In a new series, Stones of the Raj (Sat C4), the hyperactive William Dalrymple (a cross between Clive Anderson, Jonathan Meades and a puppy) presents "Blood on the Tracks", Indian Partition as seen from the perspective of Lahore railway station. Sikhs and Hindus fleeing to India clashed bloodily with Muslims arriving in Pakistan at the interchange and on trains across a genuinely divided nation. Dalrymple's elegant script clashes irritatingly with his Just William style of presentation, but that's a quibble; the unifying but ultimately divisive role of the railway in Indian history is beautifully clear.

In contrast, complete confusion is the usual state for Bridget Jones, as readers of her fictional, unattached-thirtysomething column in this paper will be aware. In Bookworm (Sun BBC1), the mad singleton's creator, Helen Fielding, gamely denies that she and her creation are one and the same. But when the author drools Jones-like over Colin Firth's Mr Darcy, you're not so sure.

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