TODAY'S TELEVISION

Gerard Gilbert recommends The Call of the Sea Sat 8.10pm BBC2 The Ice House Sat, Sun 9pm BBC1
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The Independent Culture
Who needs another murder mystery? Indeed, my heart sank when, shortly into The Ice House (Sat, Sun BBC1), I realised we were once again in whodunnit territory. The difference here, however, is that The Ice House is based on a novel by Minette Walters, whose The Sculptress propelled Pauline Quirke out of Chingford sitcomland and into Bafta contention, and that the investigating officer is played by Corin Redgrave, who, without seeming to, can act David Jason and John Thaw into a cocked hat.

Redgrave is joined by Daniel Craig (widely used now, but still most famous for his Geordie in Our Friends in the North), Kitty Aldridge, Frances Barber and Penny Downie - the latter trio suspected by villagers of being a lesbian coven. When a half-eaten corpse turns up on the grounds of their estate, Redgrave's chief inspector thinks he has the solution to an unsolved, 10-year-old murder mystery. There's a lot more to The Ice House than that, though. Although genre-bending is a notoriously risky trick, Lizzie Mickery's adaptation (directed by Cracker and Barbara Vine specialist Tim Fywell) does it with a light, dark touch.

Where the Heart Is (ITV Sun) is an altogether more formulaic affair (think Peak Practice; think Dangerfield; above all, think Heartbeat) and will undoubtedly garner more viewers than any other drama this weekend. This new six-parter stars earth- mother Pam Ferris (Ma Larkin in The Darling Buds of May) and Sarah Lancashire (former Rovers Return barmaid Raquel) as two Yorkshire district nurses. There's a death and a birth before the first commercial break, but not much to stop you slipping down the back of your sofa in a sort of comfortable torpor. The main point of interest, for me, was to see whether or not Lancashire played her nurse as Raquel in a blue uniform. Actually she doesn't, and gives the sort of relaxed performance that can only come from filming a soap three nights a week for years on end.

John Major and Tony Blair may or may not be doing a Presidential-style TV debate this side of the election (one does hope not), but the Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, and would-be Chancellors, Gordon Brown and Malcolm Bruce, parade themselves in front of Peter Jay and an invited audience in The Debate for a Chancellor (Sun BBC2). If we're talking winners and losers here, then the wittily blokish Clarke looks a hot favourite; someone should tell Brown to stop dropping his bottom lip a millisecond after the end of each sentence. Most pugilistic; it only frightens the voters.

If you want truly compelling talking heads, however, then tune into this week's The Call of the Sea (Sat BBC2), in which old sailors recall three of the 50 (yes, 50) or so mutinies which took place in the Royal Navy in the first half of this century. One recalls trying to kill the incompetent First Lieutenant on his minesweeper before he got the crew killed; another recalls his three months of hard labour on New Guinea after a mutiny on board the troopship HMS Lothian. "It wasn't a bad life... far better than on board that bloody ship."

In Macbeth on the Estate (Sat BBC2), 130 people from Birmingham's Ladywood Estate are joined by some of Britain's "most promising young actors" for a contemporary urban-blight rendition of the Scottish Play. The concrete walkways and barren open spaces of Ladywood make rather a good setting, but you feel documentary-maker Penny Woolcock is more interested in these than a totally comprehensible interpretation of the Bard.

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