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TV and radio

Pick of the week, Boy Meets Girl, C4, Tuesdays, 9-10pm

Channel 4's sex-change experiment produces some fascinating insights into gender identity and stereotypes. In the first episode earlier this week, four young men and four young women were asked - temporarily - to dress and behave as members of the opposite sex.

From the outset, they had certain assumptions about what makes a man or a woman.

In next week's show their first efforts are unconvincing: almost all show a tendency to exaggerate the characteristics of their opposite numbers, especially the four women, who apparently see men as uncouth, laddish, beer-swilling hulks, with nothing on their minds except football and sex. For the rest of the series, however, some subtler distinctions emerge, as well as a sense of how limiting sexual and cultural stereotypes can be.

School spotlight, Middle English: hooked on horror, C4 Wednesdays from February 14, 10.30-10.50am

There are new net notes for the second part of this term's work in Middle English ( for 11 to 14-year-olds), a three-part unit on horror and the supernatural.

Part one deals with ghosts, part two with evil and part three with the technique of suspense in horror writing. Authors including James Herbert and Stephen King provide the texts, while the notes on include background information on the genre, a filmography of horror movies from 1931 to 1944, extracts from the books in the television programmes and follow-up activities.

Best of therest, Tribe, BBC1, from Monday, February 12, 11.20-11.50pm

This series of well-crafted 15-minute films, shown every weekday for the next two weeks, consists of brief encounters with young people, focusing on what is most important to them - it may be Lola Marie's desperate ambition to become a TV presenter or Darryl's attempt to escape from the violence endemic on his south Wales housing estate, where "fighting's part of everyday life and trouble comes looking for you".

Not all the films are as disturbing as that, or contain as much bad language as the first, Don't Sleep With Any DJs. One is called We Want to Make the Cat Vegan, another Our Parents Call Us Bananas. Sadly, the two titles are not connected.

The Planets: brief encounters, BBC2, Thursday, February 15, 9.50-10pm

This week, The Planets is about the search for life on Mars. This has been an enjoyable series of 10-minute films surveying the history of space exploration with stunning images over a soundtrack of popular music, mainly from the start of the space age - "Three Steps to Heaven" and that sort of thing.

The bias is towards the United States, with little mention of the Soviet contribution (Nasa probably got the best pictures); but these films have been all the more memorable for keeping their message short and uncomplicated.

Robin Buss

Full education programme schedules can be found online at co.ukprogrammesspring2001.cfm

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