LAST NIGHT; Spin off is a real tonic for fans of doc dramas.
THEY couldn't lose. Take a spin-off medical drama, stick two of Britain's best known former soap stars in the spotlight and let the cameras roll.
Holby City was bound to make an impact, even if we have seen it all before. An extension of hit BBC show Casualty, it is a tonic for UK viewers' obsession with hospital dramas.
Resurrecting EastEnders' Michael French and Coronation Street's Angela Griffin from the graveyard of ex-soap stars was a stroke of genius.
Letting David Wicks off the leash in an operating theatre was always going to make fascinating viewing. The dodgy Albert Square car dealer has brushed up his act, got himself a new haircut and set himself up as an ambitious young heart surgeon with a conscience - Dr Michael Jordan.
French did his best to shake off his soap image, but it was difficult not to imagine it was Wicksy behind the green overalls and earnest expression.
Angela Griffin looked like a hairdresser out of setting lotion when she first strutted on to the wards of Holby City. As nurse Jasmine Hopkins, she still looked, sounded and acted like snipper Fiona Middleton.
Jasmine has the same gutsy attitude and down-to-earth sense of right and wrong as Fiona. And we were just waiting for that no-good Steve McDonald to waltz in and sweep her off her feet, before dumping her.
It will take a couple of episodes before both actors shake off their soapy history, but with some decent plots and good lines, they should make the grade.
There wasn't much time to dwell on character in Holby City's opening episode - action was high on the agenda. Dr Jordan raced to collect a donor's heart and deliver it in time for a transplant operation.
Angela had time to demonstrate her fear of flying, assist with the surgery and be promoted.
But the star of the show was Anton Meyer as hard-nosed heart surgeon George Irving. He gave a chilling performance as a man who saves lives simply to boost his ego.
With Irving in the driving seat, Holby City looks like it is on the right track.
BROOKSIDE(Channel 4, 8.30pm)
JACKIE DIXON (Alexandra Fletcher, left) sympathises with Lindsey Phelan (Claire Sweeney) who is suffering the pain of betrayal. DS Rose is still trying to pin the rape of Nikki on Luke.
PICK OF THE BOX
STYLE: Changing Rooms (BBC1, 8pm)
THE rooms for improvement show is all at sea as the design team head for South Wales' Gower Peninsula.
Presenter Carol Smillie is left to cope as one of her team members, volunteer lifeboat woman Anne, rushes off to answer a call-out.
The emergency is a false alarm, but the DIY team still have to push the boat out to make sure they transform the house of Anne's neighbours.
There are other disasters to cope with, including Carol's broken fingernail and the discovery of a wasps' nest.
DRAMA: er (Channel 4, 9pm)
A DOUBLE bill of the American drama series, with two of the show's most powerful episodes.
This is a cynical attempt to whet the nation's appetite before series five starts on February 3, but who is complaining?
Kicking off the evening's double whammy is the episode that portrayed George Clooney - who plays Dr Doug Ross - as an action hero, battling to save the life of a little boy trapped in a floodwater outlet.
We always knew he was a superman beneath those green overalls, but this was proof positive that he could perform outside the operating theatre.
In the second slice of the drama, starting at 10pm, Dr Ross tries to sort his private life out when he visits his estranged father. Back at work, the er is crowded out with women waiting to give birth and Benton tries to prove himself as a surgeon.
SCI-FI: The X Files (BBC1, 10.30pm)
THE relationship between FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully might have lost some of its bite, but they still make an unbeatable team.
If anyone can convince us that the truth is out there, stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson can.
Mulder and Scully recount their contrasting versions of the events leading to the death of a young boy suspected of being a vampire.
FACTUAL: Mersey Blues (BBC2, 9pm)
DOCUMENTARY exposing life on the thin blue line, as cameras follow the Merseyside Police force through thick and thin.
The spotlight falls on the drug squad, which has spent two years targeting 17 key criminals.
Like the rest of the police force, the department is facing a cut in its annual budget during the next three years.
WEE WILLIE WINKIE (Channel 4, 1.45pm - 3.30pm) Moptop Shirley Temple melts the hearts of hardened soldiers at a colonial outpost in India. Hollywood's idea of a Rudyard Kipling story is quite possibly the strangest film in the career of director John Ford, here stuck with a child star who could do no wrong in the eyes of the industry. With Victor McLaglen, C. Aubrey Smith 1937
JOE DANCER - THE BIG TRADE (Channel 5, 3.30pm - 5.20pm) Tense crime drama in which an undercover detective becomes involved in a murder investigation when his car inadvertently hits and kills a young actor fleeing from the scene of a `murder' 1981
THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT, PART 2 (BBC2, 4.00pm - 6.00pm) Comedy and drama are added to the musical mix in another diverting slab of MGM cinema history, hosted by Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. Among the featured players are Buster Keaton, the Marx Bros and Laurel and Hardy 1976
HOSTILE FORCE (Channel 5, 9.00pm - 10.50pm) Two masked gunmen seize a security firm's control centre. Lucky for the surviving hostages, two of their number are ex-cops. Andrew McCarthy is the ruthless gang leader in briskly-staged `perfect crime' thriller, better when it's in tense siege mode, less good in the routine action finale. With Cynthia Geary 1996
IN THE DEEP WOODS (BBC1, 12.15am - 1.55am; BBC1 England, 11.40pm - 1.15am) Successful women in their thirties are being butchered by a mad but clever killer. The cops call him Woodsy, but are otherwise as much in the dark as the audience. A thinly-plotted suspense mystery with Rosanna Arquette twitchy as a potential victim and, still sinister playing a good guy in his final film role, Anthony Perkins. With Will Patton, Christopher Rydell 1992
FATAL DECEPTION: MRS LEE HARVEY OSWALD (Border, 12.15am - 1.55am) Helena Bonham Carter as Lee Harvey Oswald's wife Marina in true-life teledramatics. With Frank Whaley 1993
SUBMARINE PATROL (Channel 4, 4.00am - 5.40am) Preston Foster sorts the men from the boys in routine US Navy recruitment action from John Ford. With Richard Greene, Nancy Kelly 1938
SATELLITE & CABLE
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S ROMEO AND JULIET
(Sky Premier, 8.00pm)
THE movie that breathed new life into Shakespeare for a new generation of film lovers.
The trick was to recruit Leonardo DiCaprio, above, and Clare Danes as the star- crossed lovers destined to die - but to stick to Willie's original dialogue as much as possible.
Director Baz Luhrmann captured the magic of Shakespeare's script, but set it against a stunning modern- day backdrop. It makes stunning viewing, whether or not you understand every word.
STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE
(Sky One, 5.00pm)
IN the Star Trek spin-off, a strange lifeform takes over Keiko's body and begins ordering around the rest of the crew.
O'Brien gets a nasty shock when he is asked to complete a secret mission - or pay with his wife's life.
Avery Brooks, Rosalind Chao and Colm Meaney star in the sci-fi series.
ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE
(UK Gold, 9.00pm)
SCOTTISH actor Richard Wilson stars as Victor Meldrew, the grumpiest man on British television.
He loses the rag, as usual, when Mrs Warboys moves into the Meldrews' house.
Her basement is flooded, but that is nothing compared with the torrent that is about to escape from Victor's mouth.
Black comedy at its British best.
(Sky One, 6.30pm)
AN old video shows Monica and Rachel preparing for their high school prom.
But it highlights more than just their schoolgirl pimples and out-of- date clothes.
Rachel (Jennifer Aniston, above) finds it hard to resist the adolescent Ross (David Schwimmer) captured on camera.
AGONY TODAY AT 5.00pm AND 7.30pm
DESPITE having her broken heart paraded in public, Anthea Turner has taken back her married lover Grant Bovey. It is rumoured that Anthea is determined to get it right this time, and the couple are keen to marry once their divorces come through.
Anthea has also made no secret of her desire to become a mum, so can she forgive her man, forget the public humiliation and make it work the second time around?