Last Night's Viewing: How to Build a Bionic Man, Channel 4
Nashville, More4


The most interesting moment in How to Build a Bionic Man was a surprise unveiling. Dr Bertolt Meyer, a Swiss psychologist who has a prosthetic hand, was in the States to meet MIT's director of biomechatronics, a Professor Herr. Herr was showing off the department's latest triumph, a prosthetic ankle that mimics human movement more effectively than any previous model.

Meyer was politely impressed. "If he was wearing long trousers, you wouldn't realise that he's wearing an artificial leg, would you?" he said, as a volunteer strolled nonchalantly across the lab. "Right," said Professor Herr, "Just as you don't realise I'm wearing two right now." And with that, he rolled up his trousers to reveal that from the knee downwards he was distinctly Robocop. Herr lost his legs in a climbing accident and, like Meyer, has a more than academic interest in mechanical restoration.

I don't know whether Meyer was simulating his surprise here, but he did it pretty well if so. The second most interesting moment in the film was definitely a surprise to him, though. He'd been trying out the latest prosthetic arm, animating its movements from across the room, a weird out-of-body experience that left him gaping and a little wistful: "Before today, I'd never moved my left wrist," he said afterwards, his grammar fudging the fact that he'd never had a left wrist to move and still didn't. But for a moment he felt he had and he was sad that feeling had gone.

The third most interesting moment involved psychology too. Meyer was attending the unveiling of the bionic man that had steadily been pieced together over the course of the programme, as he investigated progress in various fields of bodily engineering, from electronic retinas to artificial hearts. An eerily lifelike mask of Meyer had been made to crown the lurching collage of bit-parts that had been constructed and he reacted to it with unexpectedly emotional intensity, snapping at a technician who was chuckling to break the tension and then walking out of the room. Several contributors had talked about the unease created by human-machine hybrids but suddenly you could see it in action.

Or perhaps it had just dawned on Meyer how silly this narrative device was. "He'll create the first bionic man that can get off the slab and walk," the voiceover had promised at the beginning. But of course he was going to do nothing of the sort, any such possibility lying years in the future. What he did, or rather the roboticists who were helping the programme out, was to construct a hi-tech mannequin that could be operated by remote control. It no more had life than a Guy Fawkes figure fitted with roller-skate wheels. But in fussing over this dubious MacGuffin, they used up a lot of time that might have been better spent exploring ethical and psychological dilemmas that were only glanced at in passing. What did Meyer actually "feel", for example, as an arm six feet away from him responded to his impulses? It's amazing how far scientists have come in replicating human body parts. Mildly depressing how far producers will go to whip up ersatz excitement when the real thing is there for the taking.

Nashville is a title with a distinguished pedigree, and if you're after a premium slice of heartland Americana I'd still point you to Robert Altman's film of that name. If you want a standard showbiz melodrama, though, you might find More4's latest American import to your taste, effectively Dallas with steel-string guitars instead of oil. Rayna's star is waning, but she ain't ready to "hang up her rhinestones just yet". Juliette's is waxing, with the help of Auto-tune and teen hysteria. Naturally, they hate each other but share a taste in men and musicians. T-Bone Burnett supplies the music and Powers Boothe a very creditable JR equivalent as Rayna's scheming pappy.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before