TELEVISION REVIEW / 'Allo, 'allo, 'allo - what's your starter for 10?

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The Independent Culture
THE JAUNTY, ding-dong tune was familiar enough (though perhaps a little more bouncy than we had remembered it) but something was definitely wrong with the announcements for University Challenge. 'And asking the questions - Jeremy Paxman.' We were warned, of course, but it still sounded comical, alerting you to the hint of interrogation there has always been in that phrase. What next? Torquemada's Full House? Wheel of Fortune, with your host Larry Beria?

The general expectation was that now that the nice policeman, Constable Gascoigne, had gone off for some cups of tea, Sergeant Paxman was going to cut up rough. 'Come on] The atomic weight of beryllium, do you know or don't you?' In the event he was merely brisk, snapping out a crisp 'You're right]' when someone was, chivvying the ummers with a parade- ground 'Come along]'. He even sympathised occasionally, offering a little snort of solidarity after three mad questions about historic telephone exchanges.

During the starter for 10, the teams are still stacked up above each other like a rack of passport photos - each portrait already oddly redolent of that mingled fascination and embarrassment that moans out of you when you come across a student photograph. This may have been because the teams actually looked a bit like a historical pageant - a short- back-and-sider on the bottom row who should have been in black-and-white, a mid-sixties tumble of curls above him and a couple of those quiet ones who sit on the end saying nothing and then suddenly go mad in the closing minutes.

The cuddly mascots had gone, though, as had that sympathetic tutorial murmur with which Gascoigne managed to suggest that it was simple bad luck that caused some wretched youth to humiliate himself by declaring that the peace treaty which ended the Manchurian war was called the Honda Accord. Gascoigne always gave the impression that he knew all the answers but would never be bad mannered enough to let on; Paxman reads out the more recondite questions with a vaguely contemptuous air, as if what he doesn't know isn't worth knowing anyway. It's still exciting, though, very rapidly resolving into a battle of character. Last night Hairy Hubris just lost out to the Android Accountant. And a note to the producers: don't ask long, complicated questions just when the pace is hotting up.

I watched the Short Stories account of a Knightsbridge burglary (C4) with some fellow feeling, having recently come downstairs to find the living room considerably less cluttered than it had been the night before. My burglar went off and had a celebratory meal in the Honeymoon Restaurant, according to the credit card slips, but he didn't have the decency to leave a perfect set of prints on the drainpipe. Miss Mork's burglar did, which meant it wasn't long before a surprising number of policemen were knocking on Ronnie Fontayne's door.

The film, which followed Miss Mork as she searched for her beloved porcelain collection, was a slightly vague affair and kept collapsing into anti-climax. Would she find them through early morning detective work in Bermondsey Market? No, she wouldn't. Would the boys in blue recover them from Ronnie's flat? No. Would we even get to see Ronnie himself? No, as he quite sensibly took the view that being paraded on television is not yet a compulsory part of the criminal justice system.

Ronnie, incidentally, is now doing a three-year stretch in one of Her Majesty's universities of crime. 'Your starter, Parkhurst, no conferring. What's the going rate for a Meissen Shepherdess what's dropped off the back of an old lady's mantelpiece?'