TV classic found in cellar: Lost 'Steptoe' tapes in BBC's new year season. David Lister reports

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FOUR episodes of the classic television comedy Steptoe And Son, which the BBC had thought lost for more than 20 years, have turned up in the cellar of Ray Galton, one of the show's writers.

The four black and white episodes of the Galton and Simpson comedy were shown just once in 1970, then they disappeared. The reel-to-reel tapes were found by a BBC researcher and they will now be transferred to newer technology and transmitted on BBC 2 in January as part of the BBC's new year season.

The pounds 164m season, launched yesterday, has an impressive look to it, with an adaptation of George Eliot's Middlemarch, starring Patrick Malahide, Juliet Aubrey and Douglas Hodge on BBC2; a new series of Absolutely Fabulous on BBC1; a new drama series with Lynn Redgrave playing a reporter who stumbles across a murder mystery; the drama writing and directing debut of the comedian Lenny Henry in Funky Black Shorts, a season of 10-minute dramas by black writers; and new comedies starring Felicity Kendal, John Gordon Sinclair, David Threlfall and Gary Olsen.

The former tennis player Sue Barker's refreshingly relaxed and unformulaic appearances as a commentator during Wimbledon fortnight have assured her a continued place in the BBC sports team and she will co-host the Winter Olympics in February.

To mark the United Nations Year Of The Family, the BBC will be putting on a season of programmes celebrating family life, a number of which may involve shaky pictures as they will be filmed on home videos by the families themselves. Baby Monthly, on BBC2, will follow the progress of five babies and their families, with a programme each month throughout the year.

The mothers and their partners will use video cameras to record their babies' progress. As the babies grow, their parents will visit leading scientists to learn about the 'frontier' ideas of infant behaviour and development and also meet researchers studying crying, sleep and smiling.

The new year sees new series of The House of Eliott, the Riff Raff Element and a third and final series of Love Hurts, with Zoe Wanamaker and Adam Faith.

And on January 13, in a debut that has already been widely discussed, David Dimbleby hosts his first edition of Question Time.

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