Robert Hanks

Robert Hanks is a freelance writer and broadcaster.

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Television Review

GIVEN THAT we're unlikely to have a white Christmas, we might as well go the whole hog and make it noir - something like that, I'd guess, was the thinking behind Fallen Angels (BBC2). This is an American series of half-hour dramas, based on short stories by acknowledged masters of the noir genre, which lurk in the shadows of the late-night schedules this week and next.

Television Review: Last Christmas

COME CHRISTMASTIME, as surely as the roads get clogged up by exiles heading home for the holidays, so the ether gets jammed with ghosts and angels, rubbing people's noses in the consequences of their actions. Charles Dickens invented the genre in A Christmas Carol, and Frank Capra posted a variation in It's a Wonderful Life. In Last Christmas (BBC1), Tony Grounds combined elements of both stories with a related genre, the second-chance movie, in which dead souls return to Earth to settle unfinished business.

Television Review

YOU'LL HAVE to forgive me if I seem preoccupied, but I've just chanced upon Win Beadle's Money (C5), and I'm still trying to come to terms with the disappointment. As the title suggests, the object of this quiz is to win money from Jeremy Beadle, but it turns out to be not as satisfying as it sounds.

Television Review

YOU MAY have come across reports over the weekend that more young people believe in aliens than believe in God. At first sight, this is encouraging news. There are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy, and hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe: an elementary grasp of probability, and a modicum of humility, leads you swiftly to the conclusion that there are quite likely to be other planets capable of supporting intelligent life. There aren't any such reasonable arguments for God's existence, so you could see this as a triumph for rationality.

Television Review

IF THERE'S one thing that can really destroy the spirit of Christmas, it's thinking too hard about Jesus. The Real Jesus Christ (Sat C4) put the nativity into historical context, arguing that the version of Jesus's life familiar to most of us is far from the Gospel truth. Around 25 years after Christ's death, the story runs, the nascent Jesus movement split into two factions, divided by their opinions on Jewish law. Perhaps not surprisingly, the side that wanted converts to be circumcised lost; this included everybody who had actually been acquainted with the historical Jesus. The side that allowed converts to keep their private parts won; this group, led by St Paul, invented its own version of Christ's life - virgin birth, wise men, star and all.

Television Review

THERE IS a fine line between documentary realism and gratuitous porn. Any doubts that Fantasy Club (C4) was on the wrong side of it were finally dispelled at the point when young Sally displayed her newly enhanced breasts for the camera, and asked the producer if he liked them. He squeaked in amazement: "They're huge."

Television Review

BE GLAD you are not a Pekin-ese: apparently, because their faces are so flat, they find it hard to bite through their offspring's umbilical cord, so they can't give birth without assistance. Also, being short in the legs, they have some trouble procreating in the first place - you have to stand them on telephone directories. Presumably, you'd want to use out-of-date ones.

Television Review

LIKE THE Red Queen, running helter-skelter just to stay in the same place, satire needs to be nippy on its toes if it wants to stay a step ahead of real life. Sex 'n' Death (BBC2) was meant to be a satire on the current vogue for trash television. Martin Clunes played Ben Black, host of a top-rated cable-television show - also called Sex 'n' Death - dedicated to inexorably pushing back the frontiers of taste and decency via a mixture of stunts, hoaxes and general excess; the catch being that the horror began to have consequences for his private life. By the end, alone, insomniac, increasingly paranoid, Black was left with no one to turn to and, having broken down all barriers, nowhere to hide.

Television Review

APPARENTLY, THE latest thing in biotechnology is growing skin for grafting from left-over foreskins. The young, healthy tissue has such "amazing expansion potential" that Advanced Tissue Sciences of California reckons to turn one sample into the equivalent of six football fields of final product. Meanwhile, just up the road at the San Cupertino Institute of Advanced Humour, scientists are close to perfecting a gag that can be grafted on to this ready-made punchline.

Television Review

THE CZECH poet and immunologist Miroslav Holub once wrote an essay entitled "The Dimension of the Present Moment", which argued that the present lasts for about three seconds: that is, our brains naturally work in three-second bursts - we find it hard to comprehend anything in less than three seconds, or to sustain concentration for longer. Holub's conclusion was that "we simply happen in segments and intervals, we are composed of frames flickering like frames of a film-strip in a projector."
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