In fact "Into the Unknown" is a laughably inappropriate title for something dreamed up by "the nation's favourite button" - bringing up the rear being an ITV speciality. It's all paving the way for Millennium, the channel's answer to The X Files, which is launched next week. This US import is an extra-terrestrial drama only in the sense that it's already been on Sky.
The season opens, however, with The Aliens Are Coming (Sat ITV), a light- hearted, heavily scripted introduction to all things Weird, with Jonathan Ross and a set seemingly borr-owed, suitably enough, from Stars in Their Eyes. There are crop circles, flying saucers and all that - but the weirdest components of the show are Ross and the studio audience. The latter bleat the most regimented laughter this side of the canned variety - as if a 1,000 volts were being passed simultaneously beneath their seats - while Ross, by some strange molecular transference, is turning into Shane Richie. He's an odd one is Wossy. Here he does his speed-presenting act, last seen at the ITV comedy awards, as if he had something far more important to do. In this case, he probably has.
A preview tape of Police 2020 (Sun ITV) was supposed to be winging its way ("special delivery") from Manchester, but has gone amiss. Nothing paranormal there, then. Again in the "Into the Unknown" season, this is a one-off futuristic thriller scripted by Cracker's Paul Abbott and set in Manchester in the year 2020 (which is about when I'm expecting the preview tape). Keith Barron leads the cast - not the first face one would envisage when casting a futuristic policier. Why not get June Whitfield and Peter Sallis while they're about it?
But then, what do I know? Those that can, do - after all - while those that can't, become critics. That's the thinking, anyhow, behind the thinly veiled act of aggression which was the recent experiment at the Battersea Arts Centre. This gave four leading theatre critics the chance to direct a play of their choosing - and publicly hang themselves in the process. Just in case this wasn't public enough, however, eminent theatre directors wrote them up in the next morning's newspapers. The Works (Sun BBC2) concentrates on the Evening Standard's Nicholas de Jongh, directing a play by Jean Anouilh. You'd think that de Jongh would know better than to offer such an obvious hostage to headline-writing fortune as Anouilh/ennui to his reviewer, the Royal Court's Stephen Daldry. Anyway, the public stayed away, which highlights the essential insularity of the exercise.
Just to illustrate how easy it is to dismiss years of hard work in half a sentence, Brothers in Trouble (Sat BBC2) is a melodramatic Screen Two drama about illegal immigrants in 1960s Britain, while Drugs, Dogs and D-Wing (Sat C4) highlights ingenious ways of smuggling drugs into prison, like hiding tabs of LSD beneath the stamps on letters. And the not so clever - like the person who wrote his name and address on a packet of heroin. They do say that only the dumb ones get caught.Reuse content