Dramatic exit

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 12:00am

Crime takes a back seat in the heart-wrenching drama that has been built up to allow Jimmy Smits to quit NYPD Blue (Pearl, 8.30pm) tonight. There had been rumours that Bobby Simone would be killed off in the line of duty. But in the end creator Stephen Broncho opted for a more personal tragedy.

As a result, this episode moves closer to the kind of drama we expect of ER than of the New York crime enforcers. For a crime series, when we are used to death being instant, Simone's demise could not have been more drawn out.

In the fifth and final episode of his failing health saga, his fans will have to watch all that can go wrong after a heart transplant. Soap opera emotions will be running high as his lover Diana and partner Andy Sipowicz respond to the crisis.

Some may wonder what has become of the Blue's star since his exit. Like ER 's George Clooney, Smits is seeking bigger success in movies. But his first stop has not been Hollywood. Instead, next year he will be seen in an intriguing British-German collaboration between the great German director Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas ) and U2's Bono.

The black comedy The Million Dollar Hotel, written by Bono who is cast alongside Mel Gibson and Smits, will be premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February.

Hong Kong explorer Professor Wong How-man, founder of the China Exploration and Research Society, met with a gruesome sight when he was monitoring Tibetan Antelope, or Chiru, in a nature reserve in Xinjiang province. He and fellow expedition members found hundreds of the endangered animals illegally slaughtered and stripped of their 'king of wools' prized by wealthy women for their shahtoosh shawls. Poachers did not even spare pregnant females, nor those with calves.

Wong has done much to increase global awareness about the plight of this species, though the society's most recent expedition found the number of animals being massacred has increased tenfold in recent years. They filmed what they saw, shown tonight in Hong Kong Connection (Pearl, 6.50pm). Capes Of Blood will be an important reminder that at this week's parties, there should be no admiration for the women who are still ignorant enough to adorn themselves in shahtoosh.

Military technology and espionage in the region is a topic in Asia At The Millennium (CNBC, 12.30pm). But this programme is not concerned with any recent supposed theft of secrets involving China, but how China lost its secret recipe for gunpowder and other key military technologies over the past 1,000 years.

Power And Politics traces China's military decline over the millennium, with espionage playing an important role. It also looks at a more positive recent political trend: the rise of women as political leaders.