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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 December, 2003, 00:29 GMT
Curtain up on 2004's TV

By William Gallagher
BBC News Online

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet
It's formal dress for the Pet gang as they rebuild an Embassy
Before the tinsel is back in the box and the cat finishes the turkey sandwiches, 2004's television begins in earnest with new drama, factual and comedy.

Auf Weidersehen, Pet is back on the BBC in the first week of January and sees the lads rebuilding the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba.

They seem to have become a kind of building site A-Team - if you have a project and no one else can help, maybe the Pet boys will get it done without too much incident.

Also returning in 2004 - though there is no confirmed date - is Martin Shaw as Adam Dalgliesh in The Murder Room.

The makers of hit BBC One spy show Spooks are busy on new series The Grid.

This international version of Spooks has an impressive cast, with Julianna Margulies from ER and Dylan McDermot of The Practice.

Filming on the three-part drama begins shortly in Morocco, Toronto and London.

The Spooks team is also creating Hustle, a con-artist drama with Tamzin Outhwaite and Robert Vaughn.

The Simpsons
UK satellite viewers get to see Tony Blair in The Simpsons
Stage veteran Tom Conti stars in DoNoVan (it really is spelt like that), a thriller about an ex-forensic scientist.

In the first few weeks of 2004, the BBC will bring us England Expects - a harsh drama about the far right with Steven Mackintosh (of Care, the 2000 drama about child abuse) in a typically strong role.

ITV1 in the meantime is preparing Wall of Silence, a drama documentary about the 1997 murder of teenager Jamie Robe.

Much lighter material will be found in Mad About Alice, a BBC comedy starring Amanda Holden and Jamie Theakston as a couple who regret splitting up.

And John Hurt will star in The Alan Clarke Diaries for BBC Four.

The BBC will not be bringing us the third series of 24, which has been picked up by Sky1 for February, but it is making The Worst Week of My Life, a seven-part comedy about the week before a wedding.

Sky is also showing the Simpsons in the UK special.

In the episode, titled Regina Monologues, Homer is sentenced to death in the Tower of London and Prime Minister Tony Blair has a starring role.

Tom Conti
Tom Conti stars as an ex-forensic scientist turned detective
Also early next year, Sky1 has the UK première of Nip/Tuck, a controversial drama about plastic surgeons that has proved to be a hit in America.

One new US hit that has yet to find a UK home but surely deserves one is Joan of Arcadia, a drama about a teenage woman who talks to God. All the time.

The show sounds daft but is not. It is excellent and saccharine-free. Joan does not simper in front of God, she yells. "I thought you'd be nicer!"

It is a surprise hit and the sooner it gets here the better. But if you like surprises, try the new version of Battlestar Galactica.

As impossible as it sounds, Galactica is back and is very good - it makes the 1979 show look like it was made in crayon. Expect it on Sci-Fi.




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