Preview RECOMMENDED VIEWING THIS WEEKEND

Rock Family Trees, 9.00pm Saturday BBC2 Fawlty Towers, 7.30pm Sunday BBC1 Homicide - Life on the Street, 9.00pm Sunday Channel 4 Myths and Memories of World War II, 9.10pm Sunday BBC2
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Like a number of people, I found this year's VE Day anniversary celebrations somewhat ambiguous. Not that there wasn't Victory to be toasted and losses to be remembered - it's just that the country seemed happy to swallow national myths whole, without even the slightest attempt at polite chewing.

Thank goodness, then, for the laxative powers of Myths and Memories of World War II (Sun BBC2), a series of hypotheses followed by studio debates that has so far examined Alan Clark's argument that we should have cut a deal with Hitler in 1941, and Tom Bower's rather more convincing contestation that the Nuremberg War Trials obscured British government inactivity about the Nazi war criminals in its own midst. Dr Nick Tiratsoo - the very picture of an LSE social historian (dark jacket, dark shirt, dark tie) - chooses to attack probably the most cherished "myth" of all about Britain at war: that we all pulled together and suffered equally. While vital war workers cowered in their inadequate shelters down the East End, his film argues, diners at the Dorchester tucked into lobster, pheasant, crab, oysters and caviar before retiring to the hotel's gas-proof, reinforced concrete vaults. In fact "the oyster question" turns into the programme's biggest red herring, as Lord Deedes and others argue the availability of shellfish in 1941.

Myths and memories of the 1960s elevate London and Liverpool as the happening cities, but Birmingham also had its movers and groovers - or at least it had The Move. Rock Family Trees (Saturday BBC2) takes as the forefathers of the surely mistitled Birmingham Beat (after all, getting down the M1 to London was the first objective of any halfway ambitious group), Denny Laine, Bev Bevan, Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood. Laine ended up playing second fiddle to Paul McCartney in Wings, while Bevan and Lynne found themselves employing second, third and fourth fiddles in the Electric Light Orchestra. Wood saw his career climax with his hair dyed white, his backing group dressed in gorilla suits, wishing it could be Christmas every day.

For the Baltimore Beat see Homicide - Life on the Street (Sun Channel 4), which some reckon is a more sophisticated alternative to NYPD Blue. The moral boundaries are certainly as fuzzy as the ultra-realist camerawork - and if you prefer John Cassavetes to Howard Hawkes, then this is definitely your cop shop. Personally, I find that it stylishly but hesitantly dwells for half an hour on what NYPD Blue would wittily wrap in five minutes. As a warmer for Monday's new series, Sunday's Homicide is the final episode from the last series, in which Robin Williams guest stars as the self- loathing husband of a murder victim.

Sunday's Heart of the Matter has a film about gambling addiction. Having successfully gambled on getting a preview tape down from the BBC in Manchester in time, Lady Luck laughed in my face by putting the wrong tape - an old edition of Holiday - in the cassette case. So, like the rest of the nation, I turn with relief and gratitude to Fawlty Towers (Sunday BBC1). This is the one where Basil starts to unravel spectacularly when he discovers one of the guests is a psychiatrist. John Cleese was right to get out of Basil Fawlty when he did. Thirteen episodes looks like an exorcism; any more and he might have become possessed.

The big picture

Down by Law

Saturday 12.30am BBC2

Not many American films feature a central character who quotes Robert Frost and Walt Whitman in Italian. This is just one of the quirky delights of Down By Law. Jim Jarmusch's characteristically offbeat film makes stunning use of black-and-white photography to tell the story of an ill-matched threesome - Tom Waits (an actor/ singer who appears to warm up his voice by gargling broken glass), John Lurie (who also wrote the soundtrack with Waits) and Roberto Benigni. Cooped up together in a New Orleans jail, they are liberated by the poetry-spouting, pidgin- English-speaking Italian. Cue a road movie.

The big race

Tour De France

Saturday 8.30pm Channel 4

It may not have the tradition of, say, Wimbledon, but the Tour De France (C4) is gradually wheeling its way into British hearts - unusual for a such a quintessentially French phenomenon. It even came to this country for a stage last year, for goodness sake (its diversion this year is into Belgium - a far less glamorous prospect). Channel 4 proves its commitment to the gruelling event - are these the fittest of all sportsmen? - with a daily half-hour update. Phil Liggett might be infected with a touch of the Alan Partridges - remember "The Day to Day''s parody commentary on the tour? - but there is no doubting his enthusiasm for his sport.

Comments