Di double bill

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 August, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 August, 1998, 12:00am

It is not a particularly original thing to say, but news of the death of Princess Diana, a year ago exactly, was to my generation what hearing of the assassination of American president John F Kennedy was to my parents' generation.

Everyone can remember where they were, most people can remember the first thought that flashed across their mind, the first words they said. And everyone can remember the endless, and endlessly fascinating conversations that followed afterwards about what had happened, why it happened, and what would happen next.

This is why programme makers are still making programmes about Diana, on everything from her appearance, to her affairs, and, of course, how she died.

We will watch anything about Diana. ATV have decided to demonstrate the range on offer by scheduling two completely different Diana documentaries back-to-back tonight: one light, and one heavy, and both utterly absorbing.

The first, Princess Diana - A Day in the Life (World, 9.30pm), is made by Odyssey, the same production company which made the quite awful Diana: In Search of Happiness, and William and Harry: The Next Generation, repeated recently on TVB Pearl. Those programmes pretended to have some kind of insight into the personal thoughts of the princess. This one, thank God, claims only to offer an insight into her tastes in jewellery, and her fashion sense.

This is the kind of safe, but absorbing, stuff we can all enjoy. How Diana learned to wear hats properly, how Diana re-introduced the pearl choker into fashion, how Diana achieved that doe-eyed look in the engagement photographs, and what dresses Diana liked best, with a little mention, at the end, of her landmines campaign.

Dispatches: The Accident (World, 10.30pm) is altogether different. In fact it is an angry rebuttal of the appalling, and controversial Secrets of the Crash documentary that Wharf Cable bought and screened in May. That programme built a fairly thin case to suggest a British security services plot to kill Diana before she shamed the royal family by marrying Dodi Al Fayed, son of Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al Fayed.

In Dispatches, the team traces much of the 'evidence' to the PR machine of Mr Al Fayed, and dismisses it.

The crash, it says, was an accident that happened because Dodi insisted company driver Henri Paul take the wheel of the Mercedes outside his father's Paris hotel, and because no one at the Ritz had the courage, or the authority, to object because he was drunk.

In a way the hypotheses is even crueller than the previous one: that not security services robbed Mr Al Fayed of a son, and perhaps a royal daughter-in-law, but a combination of arrogance and carelessness by the Fayeds, both father and son.

If Mr Al Fayed has been seeking an explanation for the crash to assuage his own sense of remorse, it is understandable.