Tuesday, May 6

Reviews: Age of Terror - The War on the West; Natural World - Spectacled Bears; Amy Winehouse - What Really Happened

Three documentaries of spectaculary different scope served up fear, concern and contempt says Mark Lewis

If you think that making fun of a marmalade-munching, raincoat-wearing, geriatric, tube-tramping, imaginary, vagrant bear isn’t funny, then try finding a joke in The Age of Terror – the War on The West (Tuesday, BBC2, 9pm). Beyond, say, spreading the rumour that Osama Bin Laden is gay. Or Jewish. There is very little humour to be found in the last of this impeccably researched four-part documentary series. (Or a transsexual).

The story of the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, just weeks after Bin Laden sat in front of a video camera and said US target would be hit soon, is a tale of missed opportunities and appalling morality. The maimed, blinded, weeping people with crippled bodies and ruined lives tell a spectacularly morbid tale.

Let us just hope that this most modern and merciless form of terror will fade out as surely as those which the series maker, Peter Taylor, has already shown preceded it.

At around 50 years old Bin Laden, like Paddington Bear, should be reaching about the right age for gentle removal from our memories and popular consciousness.

Paddington has been around for over 50 years. But like the Peruvian, Spectacled bear on which he is based, Paddington is less popular today than he was.

Even in my day, Paddington was little loved. In the 1950s he only had to compete with grainy Pathe film clips of Fidel Castro speeches and powdered egg rations. But by the 1980s Ronald Reagan and The Thundercats had come along.

It was a daft, thoughtless time. I regret to say that as a pre-pubescent boy, I didn’t even think about the anthropomorphic implications of there only being one female on the Thundercats planet. Or that she was a different species from the only males. It’s difficult and terrifying to imagine the progeny of a half woman/half cheetah and a half man/half panther.

But not nearly as difficult, apparently, as the thought of a bear eating a cow. This was the sub-text of the first in this series of Natural World (Tuesday BBC2, 8pm), where belligerent, biologists dismissed the eye witness accounts of Andean locals with eye wateringly colonial disdain. But, despite the patronising certainty of one biologist, Rob Williams, that the bear eats nothing meatier than tree bark and marmalade, we actually see footage of Paddington gorging on a cow.

The problem is that proof that this endangered species is a carnivore might make him very unpopular indeed. And this – as tedious though this programme largely was - is the nub. The spectacled bear is so cute, and Steven Fry narrates with such gently, aching concern that you’d really rather they weren’t shot. So given that saying what really happened could get these buggers killed, how about we just agree that what really happened was we saw the Peruvian spectacled bear eating nothing worse than a ratatouille?

It would be no less improbable than the latest in Jacques Perretti’s What Really Happened series. Amy Winehouse – What Really Happened (Channel 4, 9pm) followed the standard trajectory of Perretti conducting telling interviews with in-the-know interviewees so far out of the know that quotes from Dr Raj Persaud would have looked like a coup.

Hold the front page! Journalist, Sophie Hayward tells us Amy's not very good at accepting compliments. Exclusive! Journalist, Gordon Smart explains husband, Blake, is not very popular on Fleet Street. Scoop! 'Friend', Joe Mott who last saw Amy when The Thundercats were popular, says Amy is partial to a hit on the crack pipe.

At least Perretti has the decency to preface everything he says with, 'it seems to me.' 'It seems to me,' he says, 'that it was about this time that her life began to change.' 'It seems to me,' he goes on, 'that her fantasy has become a reality.'

It seems to me, that What Really Happened is a fanciful name for an hour of strung together library shots.