Television Review

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The scheduling of Horizon's (BBC2) updated documentary about United Nations weapons' inspectors in Iraq was bound to be a little tricky, given the international circumstances. Put it out after an attack and it might whiff a little of post-rationalisation. Put it out before, on the other hand, and there is a faint but unshiftable hint of prior justification. Certainly this broadcast will have been seen by some as a powerful confirmation of the need for action. But while the broadcast wouldn't have made any hawk unhappy, it also offered some evidence for why the inspection regime should have aroused such dogged resistance in Iraq. The scenes of stand- off here, in which indignant Iraqi officials tried to stonewall the UN inspectors, were clearly moments of deep bureaucratic humiliation - the culture of secrecy which surrounds any bureaucracy (not just nasty tyrannical ones) being subjected to signal insult. The Iraqis are without doubt guilty of violating the UN agreements but it's clear that they feel violated too - and wounded pride has never been a great promoter of rational behaviour. You only have to entertain for a moment the idea of Iraqi inspectors demanding admission to Aldermaston or the Ministry of Defence personnel files to empathise a little with the paranoia and mistrust being generated by the inspections. This isn't to argue that Saddam should be allowed to do what he wants, incidentally, just that a diagnosis of national villainy is unimaginative, to say the least.

Judith Bunting's film first went out in 1992, when it followed the inspectors as they uncovered the evidence of Saddam's chemical and nuclear programmes. The new material in this up-dated version reported on their success in proving that biological weapons had also been manufactured on a large scale. This largely involved combing through derelict buildings for enough evidence to make the Iraqis own up. And here, too, the programme was not easily recruitable to the cause of war. It was true that it showed how far Saddam had built up his arsenal before the Gulf War but on the evidence of most of the footage here he would now have some difficulty in making yoghurt on an industrial scale. What's more, the programme raised the obvious conundrum of deterrent - if Saddam did not use his undamaged stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons during the Gulf War, at the moment of maximum tension, then why is it assumed that he would use them now - when his capacity to defend himself has been so massively reduced? (This is a circular argument, it's true - if the deterrent isn't credible then it isn't a deterrent at all - but even so you have to wonder at the sudden urgency of the recent ultimatums). Whatever position you take, this intriguing account of old-fashioned detective work and hi-tech scrutiny (the UN have installed television cameras in several sensitive chemical plants so they can dial-a-spy from New York) could hardly have found a more receptive, or a more nervous, audience.

Helen Baxendale may soon be heading west, if her role as Ross's English girlfriend on Friends provides a suitable visiting card for Hollywood. Meanwhile, she is whiling away the time playing Cordelia Grey in An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (ITV).The title prompts the question of whether there is an unsuitable job for Helen Baxendale - she's on screen almost as often as Carole Vorderman, having appeared as a cynical doctor, a lesbian investigator, and having even done time in sit-com. This latest exploitation of the PD James franchise demonstrates an addition to her range - her private detective isn't quite as icily controlled as some previous roles, and is given to moments of flustered doubt. The series itself displays an undemanding taste for the gumshoe cliches: when Cordelia enters her office to meet her latest client she pushes through a frosted glass door and finds a well-groomed silhouette standing in front of the large half moon window. A little later there is one of those useful scenes in which someone shouts "I wish you were bloody dead!" in front of as many witnesses as the budget will allow. This sort of remark is usually fatal to the person so addressed - in this case a husband who is suspected of sexually harassing his staff. He definitely shouldn't go near the deserted swimming pool late at night, however nicely the director asks him.

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