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PICK OF THE WEEK Animation Week C4 until September 29

Channel 4 and the Welsh fourth channel, S4C, have played an important role in expanding the potential of the small screen as a vehicle for animation, including series for schools such as Animated Shakespeares.

Admittedly animation on C4 not specifically designed for educational needs still tends to get pushed to the midnight hour. Some of the material in this Animation Week has certainly been unsuitable for younger viewers, particularly tonight's final Sick Night, which promises "disturbing, rude shorts".

However, adult animation does not have to be disturbing or rude. It doesn't have to be arty, either. Matt Groening, the man responsible for The Simpsons, has come up with a new comedy, Futurama, about a pizza delivery boy who is accidentally frozen and wakes in the year 3000.

The series continues beyond Animation Week, every Thursday on C4.

The Animated Tales of the World, currently running on C4 Schools, is evidence of the medium's ability to cross cultural boundaries. The season is linked to an exhibition at the Barbican Centre (until October 29), and the website (\celmate) includes an education section that gives information on courses in making animated films.

school spotlight Book Box: Alice through the Looking Glass C4 Thursdays until October 5 10.30-11am This adaptation of Alice's second round of adventures, designed for seven to 11-year- olds, preserves Lewis Carroll's text, while giving it an imaginative visual interpretation and using advanced special effects. A high-powered cast, headed by Kate Beckinsale as Alice, includes Ian Holm, Ian Richardson, Sian Phillips, Penelope Wilton and Geoffrey Palmer.

The film, which looks as if it must have been a pleasure to make, offers material for work in the usual literacy skills, plus an introduction to concepts of genre and an exploration of language, for example throughthe study of Carroll's word-play and nonsense poetry.

best of the rest What If?

BBC Knowledge from October 10 to November 27, 8pm What If? is an exercise in historical speculation along the lines of Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo's film It Happened Here or Robert Harris's novel Fatherland. Suppose the Germans had mounted a successful invasion of Britain in the Second World War. What difference would it have made? How would British people have reacted to life under the Nazis? In fact, the last two programmes in this series consider the effects of a total defeat of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk and the loss of the Battle of Britain; but we start much further back, with the revolt of Boudicca against the Romans in ad 61.

As we know from the defeat of the legions on the Rhine some 50 years earlier, the Roman army was by no means invincible. Just as they decided to draw the frontier along the Rhine after the defeat of Varus, the Romans might have decided to withdraw behind the Channel and leave Britain to its own devices. What difference would it have made? Leading historians discuss the implications. An early collapse of the Roman Empire might later have opened the way for much wider Moorish expansion from the south.

Such speculation is not as idle as it may seem. It gives an opportunity to review the history of what did happen and to emphasise the significance of the turning points. Wars and battles dominate the series, if only because they tend to mark decisive changes and imply a clear alternative outcome. Hastings, the Armada, Naseby and the Jacobite rebellion follow, as well as a look at the unreformed Catholic England that might have emerged if Henry VIII had won his case for divorcing Catherine of Aragon.

What If? is one of the supplementary programmes being run alongside the new BBC2 series A History of Britain which starts on Sunday (see review, page 21).

Robin Buss.

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