Television: pick of the week

4th April 2003 at 01:00
Hollywood Science BBC2 Wednesdays, April 9-23, 7.30-8pm

Could James Bond have survived under water by breathing the air from a car tyre? Could even John Candy eat a 96oz steak? Could Kevin Costner have turned his own urine into drinking water? And how often have you wondered, while watching a film, just how plausible it was? In each of these programmes, Robert Llewellyn and Dr Jonathan Hare test the scientific claims behind Hollywood movies, including scenes from A View to a Kill, The Great Outdoors and Waterworld. The results are sometimes surprising, often hilarious and always instructive.

End of Extinction: Cloning the Tasmanian Tiger Discovery Science Saturday, April 5, 8-9pm

The Discovery Channel is devoting a week to programmes about DNA, including this documentary on the efforts of scientists at the Sydney Australian Museum to do a Jurassic Park on the Tasmanian Tiger, an example of which survives in a jar of alcohol, 136 years old.

Forget mosquitoes preserved in amber, even with an actual specimen, the technology involved in cloning this extinct marsupial is no simple matter.

As Walking with Dinosaurs demonstrated, it is much more fun to reconstruct extinct animals on film; and Cloning the Tasmanian Tiger makes good use of computer technology to show how this creature would have looked as it hunted through the Tasmanian forests.

DNA: the Promise and the Price Discovery Channel from Sunday, April 6, 8-9pm

To conclude its DNA Week, Discovery Channel has taken a poll around the world to test attitudes to genetic engineering. It finds that only a slight majority of people believes that the benefits of these discoveries will outweight the risks - a surprising result, perhaps, given the prospect that science may eventually be able to put an end to lethal conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer (all of which appear to have a strong genetic component). There is a lot of information here about DNA itself, as well as discussion of the ethical questions involved in modern genetics.

Altered Statesmen Discovery Channel from Wednesday, April 9, 9.30-10.30pm

This series examines how the behaviour of men in power may have been affected by old age or illness: Churchill, Eden, Yeltsin and Reagan are among those whose judgment at crucial moments is questioned. The first subject is John F Kennedy, who lied to the American electorate about Addison's disease, the rare disorder from which he suffered and for which he had to take large quantities of hydrocortisone, largely self-administered. He was also in constant pain from his back, probably suffered from venereal disease and was being fed amphetamines by an unscrupulous doctor.

The result, according to commentators here, was that the world nearly found itself involved in a nuclear war at the time of the Cuban missile crisis.

But, oddly, the chief effect of the programme may not be what is intended by its makers: you could well come away admiring Kennedy for his courage in overcoming his handicaps.

The Story of Art Deco Channel 5 Sundays, to April 13, 3.55-4.25pm

Mark Irving presents a three-part series designed to coincide with the exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Though it was less a style than an attitude, Art Deco can be dated from the Paris exhibition of 1925 where its chief characteristics were established. The second programme, this Sunday, shows the centre moving from Paris to New York.

Always elitist, Deco was disliked by the more socially-minded Modernists, but felt like a whiff of luxury and elegance in a weary postwar world.

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