TODAY'S TELEVISION

Gerard Gilbert recommends The Natural History of an Alien Sun 8.55pm BBC2
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The Independent Culture
Oh ma, he's making eyes at us again. That Colin Firth is suddenly bursting out of the covers of TV listings magazines once more. "Back by popular demand," says the Radio Times, but Darcy-mania is probably past its sell-by-date now (killed off, probably, by Firth's appearances in Nostromo and Fever Pitch, as well as by getting married). Anyhow, it seems a little early to be getting involved again with that 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (Sun BBC1).

Ratings-wise, it's mainly up against ITV's unestablished nurses' drama, Staying Alive, so the doings of the Bennet sisters will probably deliver the viewers. Anyone experiencing a severe reaction to P & P, however, could do a lot worse than switching over to BBC2 and checking out The Works (Sun BBC2). This has a gently revealing profile of Alexander McQueen, the East End shock designer who succeeded John Galliano as head of design at Givenchy. McQueen admits that playing up his yobbishness has served him well, and it makes for moments of high comedy as he crashes headlong into the thin-lipped world of Paris haute couture. A Givenchy seamstress recoils in horror at the memory of McQueen slashing into some elaborately pinned creation with a pair of scissors. "It's only a dress," he says. The fashion editor of Le Figaro icily recalls asking McQueen how great, he thought, was Hubert Givenchy's talent. "What talent?" replied this upstart prince.

Some of McQueen's wilder outfits aren't a million miles from the aliens envisaged by the biologists and sci-fi dreamers in The Natural History of an Alien (Sun BBC2), one of the more original contributions to BBC2's A Weekend on Mars. Far from the humanoid figures churned out by most sci- fi films, it seems that the likelihood of extra-terrestrials having recognisable faces, two arms and two legs is extremely remote. Since we are merely an evolutionary product of one single fishy species of the Cambrian Sea, aliens might go in any of many Darwinian directions, and that's before taking into consideration how much gravity affects them (low gravity favouring jumping and gliding rather than walking; high gravity favouring a large number of legs and other supports).

Hopefully, they're unlikely to end up like Shane Richie, who seems to be evolving into Jonathan Ross (and vice versa). Just close your eyes and listen. Love Me Do (Sat ITV) is last year's Shane Richie Experience after a severe dose of focus-testing. Out go the tacky on-air weddings, but not the tacky on-air presenter. They love him. The contestants - Karen and Darren from Essex, Rob and Claire from somewhere Brummie - are endearingly candid. "Karen," asks Shane. "What is your boyfriend's most annoying habit?". "Breaking wind, Shane." Shane, to his credit, is stopped in his tracks by that one.

The Grimleys (Sat ITV) sounded so promising - with the likes of Nigel Planer, Jack Dee and Noddy ("we're all crazee now") Holder having fun at the expense of the 1970s. Dee is good as a sadistic PE teacher, while the former Slade front-man is cast against type as a sensitive music teacher. The comedy is surprisingly muted, though, which is more than can be said for quivering, anti-establishment, Welsh thespian Kenneth Griffith, who pops up in various roles in The Legend of George Rex (Sat C4) as he tries to claim that the rightful heir to the British throne is not Prince Charles, but some South African geezer - the current descendant of George III's love child. But then, you might argue that George III was not a rightful heir, but some Stuart, and so on - ad infinitum. Or ad tedium.

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