THE broadcasting weekend had something of an Asian flavour to it. Saturday's Citizens (Radio 4), down to its usual standards of writing and acting, staged an inter-racial encounter in an episode inexplicably titled "Everything you ever wanted to know about". Liverpudlian Michael Brennan went to Birmingham to spend the weekend with Anita and her Indian — family. Not so much culture shock as culture mock, this meeting threw up so many cliches about British Asians, from high-pitched accents to caricatured materialism, that you could almost hear the flock wallpaper.
Infinitely more interesting was Heart of the Matter on Sunday (BBC1), which looked at what it means to be British, taking as its starting point British Asians' fears that their cultural identity is becoming submerged in a political chess game of white versus black. The programme opened out to the broader concepts of racial and national identity.
Novelist Salman Rushdie talked the most sense, pointing out that the migrant was a central defining figure of the twentieth century, and that recognition of our plurality is essential to take us into the twenty-first.
Unfortunately, 35 minutes was not quite sufficient to develop such important themes. Although Joan Bakewell did her
best to tie things up with an impassioned little speech on the lines that British Asians are not just like the British, they are the British, you were left feeling dissatisfied that such promising discussions had not been allocated a series of their own.
Korea is the subject of one of three weekend documentary series currently in full swing. Part four of Korea — the Unknown War (Channel 4, Saturday) was serious educative television at its best. You can even send off for a free study pack — but it just wouldn't be the same without Ian Holm's spare, grave and measured narration: shades of Lord Olivier's wonderful The World at War.
Part two of The Waugh Trilogy (BBC2, Sunday) was lighter fare, but by no means lightweight. It took us through Waugh's foreign correspondent years in the 1930s, linking the novels with the events of the writer's life. It might not stand up to structuralist analysis, but it makes for great television. The episode ended with "Brideshead Revisited", for which only John Mortimer had a good word, claiming that the novel was saved from being a Daphne du Maurier-type romance by the gravity of its Catholic theme. Graham Greene begged to differ, calling it "gamey", while Kingsley Amis showed no inclination to mince his words: "I hate it like hell!"
Which is precisely how I feel about Marching as to War (ITV, Sunday), a history of the Salvation Army presented by an inanely grinning Roy Castle. All bonhomie, silly voices and cardigan, Mr Castle managed to make the story of William and Catherine Booth sound subMills and Boon, an achievement in which he was ably assisted by the dire dramatic reconstructions that punctuated his commentary.
Film on Four Extra on Saturday night repeated Good and Bad at Games, directed by Jack Gold with a screenplay by William Boyd. It was that variety of film in which deleting the expletives would halve the running time, but worth sticking with all the same.
The victim of quite ghastly bullying at school, the unattractive "Animal" Cox (Anton Lesser) took a similarly ghastly revenge upon its chief perpetrator with the unwitting assistance of the generally unwitting "Wog" Niles (Martyn Stanbridge). The flashback technique, by which the effect of school on later life was displayed, never seemed hackneyed or laboured, the superb acting maintaining a high level of interest throughout.
The closing scene had Cox lying sprawled and once more alone and defeated on a cricket pitch, his victim surrounded by a cluster of solicitous fellow players, and Niles striding away with his schoolboy naivety belatedly shattered. It put real meaning into the idea of the batsman's lonely walk back to the pavilion and left this viewer in despair for a future shaped by the misshapen products of the playing fields of Eton et al: boys' public schools can seriously damage your health.
Sunday July 17
19.45pm The Waugh Trilogy BBC2. The concluding part of an illuminating examination of the life, times and writings of Evelyn Waugh.
22.10pm Heart of the Matter BBC]. In the last of an excellent series, Joan Bakewell talks to Reverend Allan Boesak, a prominent leader of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. Uniquely positioned in the anti-apartheid struggle because of his background in the very church which once defended apartheid, Boesak considers engagement in that struggle to be an essential part of the Christian's duty in South Africa. Tuesday July 19.
22.50pm Network BBC 1 . A studio discussion on the portrayal of religion on television, featuring Catholic Herald editor Peter Stanford.