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Pick of the week

Seven is a delightful age, no doubt about it. One of the sad things about the original 7Up, the World in Action series that started in 1964, was to watch the children leave this age, when personality is already formed, hopes are high and life is a constant process of discovery.

Now Granada Television, which made the original series, is launching a new project for the BBC with a fresh group of 19 children who are seven years old this year. They have been chosen partly as a representative sample of British children in their generation - from various walks of life and ethnic backgrounds - though they have concerns and reactions that cut across class, religion and other differences. Several live without one or other of their natural parents. "It's just that they broke up and I don't know why," says one boy in Salford, showing that life can deal some cruel blows even at this age (though he also demonstrates how resilient children can be).

The formula seems unbeatable, producing films that are touching, amusing and informative. The original series has been much used in schools and FE colleges, especially on sociology courses, and there is little doubt that 7Up 2000 will prove equally valuable.

7 Up 2000.


April 13, 9.35-11pm.

Olympic athlete Jamie Baulch is the presenter of this new seven-part series on Children's ITV, starting this evening, assisted by his 17-year-old roving reporter, Katy Porter.

The series aims to introduce viewers to a variety of unusual indoor and outdoor sports, and includes a report on how teams across the country are coping with the Energize Challenge Course, a cross-country event involving water jumps, rope slides and archery.

The emphasis in tonight's programme is on swimming, soccer and skipping. In future weeks, rugby, gliding, athletics, baseball, gymnastics and tennis will all be featured.

But the most intriguing items in each programme are those that involve new or unusual sports, such as dragon boat racing, survival swimming, hovercraft racing and, next week, human table football. That's right. Human table football.



From April 7, 4.30-5.05pm.

John Romer may not be most people's idea of an archaeologist - though Channel 4's other series, Time Team, hasnot made it easier to define.

Anyway, Romer has a reassuring solidity, a liking for large hats and a gift for communication. He doesn't look as though he has spent most of his life ina damp ditch or in the back room at a museum, examining pots and bones. He gets out and about quite a bit in this new series, wandering through the ruins of Pompeii, taking a ride in a horse-drawn cab in Egypt, enjoying a shady grotto in southern France, tramping up burial mounds in Denmark, measuring cave walls in Israel and sunning himself on a beach in Africa. And that was only the first programme in what promises to be a wide-ranging six-parter.

There is a point to all this gadding around. First of all, Romer wants to tell us how Western archaeology began with the discovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii some 250 years ago. Of course, the two Roman cities were a deceptively simple dig; the name of Herculaneum was discovered in a wall inscription, confirming the identity of the place, and accounts of the eruption of Vesuvius in ad79 meant that there was no problem in dating the sites.

Dating has been a major problem elsewhere. Romer traces the origin of the idea that deeper means older, and that human prehistory can be described in terms of raw materials: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age. Someone had to think of that, and many people had to be convinced before this and other assumptions became the accepted view.

Another aim of the series is to show that archaeology is not about the search for Atlantis or Noah's Ark, but that it does deliver truths and that they do matter. Science has pushed back the origins of humanity further and further, to a point unimaginable when the ruins of Pompeii were discovered and people accepted a Biblical chronology of human history.

"We were not put on this earth 4,000 years ago to use it as we wish," Romer says. "Archaeology has given us the broad outlines of a history that stretches back 5 million years and placed us once again as part of nature on the planet."

By contrast, as this lucid and well-designed account of the subject reminds us, the history of archaeology itself is remarkably short.

Great Excavations.

Channel 4.

Thursdays, from April 6, 8pm.

Listings return on April 28

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