Schools television

29th October 1999 at 01:00
PICK OF THE WEEK Ian Richardson graduates from his previous stamping ground at the Palace of Westminster to another crenellated, gothic pile for his latest role as a time-travelling alchemist in The Magician's House, the new children's drama series for the BBC.

Looking uncannily like the first incarnation of that other well-known time lord, Doctor Who, Richardson has just the right mix of spooky strangeness to make a convincing sorceror. He toggles unsmilingly between now and then (1590) in a bid to try to save his house from some imminent menace.

To help, there are numerous feral sidekicks: Jasper the owl, Cinnabar the fox and Bawson the badger, as well as a handful of children who squabble predictably and have to cope with various domestic traumas. Added to these is the magician's apprentice, who, frustrated by the lack of base-metal-to-gold instruction, decides to wreak some cyberhavoc of his own, aided by a rat that talks.

It is a cracking autumn treat, with assured performances from the children, and a cast that includes Sian Phillips as a wood-wandering stranger and Neil Pearson who has the luxury of playing a good guy for once. This series is likely to prove spellbinding to more than a few adults as well as its intended audience.

The Magician's House BBC1 Sundays 6.10-6.40pm

SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT

One of the most engaging programmes for children's maths has to be Channel 4's marvellous Number Crew. Aimed at 6-7 year-olds (but with the capacity to enchant those far younger) Number Crew follows the voyages of a rather shambolic vessel and its passengers. This term the crew practise counting on and back in twos, estimate and round up or down to the nearest 10. The tunes are horribly catchy, the characters charming and the animation colourful and lively. Who said the numeracy hour was a grind? There are stacks of resources to go with it including big books, teacher's guides and children's activity books.

The Number Crew Channel 4 Wednesdays 10-10.10am Rpt Fridays 10.50-11.00am

Night-time transmission: Tuesday, November 30, 4.00-5.40am

BEST OF THE REST

The Internet continues to embed itself in the global consciousness, redefining the way people work, learn and play.

But for all the millions who access its infinite memory, there are plenty for whom it is still an alien concept. The BBC is now into its second series of hand-holding for the uninitiated. WebWise shows just how easy that first surfari can be - online in minutes in a supermarket or the pub - and what it can lead to. There's a CD-Rom to take beginners step-by-step and plenty of celebrities to cajole you into taking them.

Family Challenge on the Web BBC1. From Monday November 1 at 11.30am

. Get WebWise. BBC2. From Monday November 1 at 5.00am.

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