Mason's easy option

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 1994, 12:00am

IN Desert Fox James Mason portrayed Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in sympathetic light. In the sequel, The Desert Rats (World, 9.30pm), he gave up and portrayed him instead in the way that German officers are traditionally portrayed: as an anal retentive who says ze when he means the.

The Desert Rats concentrates on the Australian side of the first film's events. Captain MacRoberts (Richard Burton) is a tough British officer who takes over command of the Ninth Australian Division at Tobruk in 1941. The division's desert headquarters are surrounded by the Afrika Korps, led by Rommel.

Burton is his usual forceful self, but it is Robert Newton who steals the show this time round, playing a roaring and weepy drunk who spouts philosophy and sentiment.

The film was a huge success and matches the original in almost every department. Only Mason is a disappointment. In the first film he made Rommel a human being. In this he takes the easy option and makes him a German stereotype.

IF you blinked you may have missed the 1994 re-run of Woodstock. It took place in August and was hyped in the Planet Hollywood tradition.

In the end it seemed as stimulating as damp marijuana, but 450,000 enjoyed it and 450,000 cannot be wrong, even when 4,000 of them spent much of the two-day event being treated for bad acid trips. For the record, two people died and two suffered heart attacks but survived.

Woodstock '94 (Pearl, 9.30pm) is the film record of what happened. Among those on stage are Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, the Neville Brothers and Santana.

THERE is little quality light relief around, so thank Matt Groening for The Simpsons (World, 7.30pm), the cartoon that children watch but which only adults really understand.

Bart has a Superstar Celebrity microphone, a device that enables him to make bogus radio announcements and to play pranks by throwing his voice.

But that is supplementary to the real purpose of this evening's episode, which is to give Sting a chance to appear in a cameo, as himself.

ON a recent programme the terminally suave and sophisticated Phil Donahue was caught with his metaphorical pants down when discussing the holocaust with an earnest young Jewish revisionist who believes it did not happen. The revisionist had photographic evidence in the form of gas chamber doors that opened inwards and would therefore - for some reason - have been unsuitable for a gas chamber. But that is by the by.

He challenged Donahue over footage of a concentration camp and Donahue was forced to admit, after some very un-Donahue-like coughing and spluttering, that he did not know which concentration camp it was or, indeed, if it was a concentration camp at all. It may have been a PoW camp. It may have been Discovery Bay on a wet weekend.

I mention this because it proves what I have suspected for some time; firstly that Phil Donahue probably does not deserve the pots of money he is paid and secondly I wish I could get a job like his.

The subject in today's edition of Donahue (STAR Plus, 2.30pm), is how some employees in America are getting bonuses for hiring black men.

We cannot mention Donahue without also mentioning the queen bee of the audience chat show genre, Oprah Winfrey, who grows slimmer by the hour. In The Oprah Winfrey Show (STAR Plus, 3.30pm) she discusses the kind of things that women always deny, even on their death beds.

MONDAY evening has always had current affairs programmes coming out of its ears, something that shows no sign of changing. Not that it should. Inside Story (World, 8.30pm) does a big job on a small budget and likewise The Pearl Report (Pearl, 7.15pm).

Inside Story has been trying to expand its scope since editor Susan Yu took over from Sally Round. Stories include the banned Al Arqam Muslim sect in Malaysia, China's capitalist growing pains and Hong Kong's public assistance programme.

Tonight's edition of The Pearl Report is grandly titled The Joint Declaration: Ten Years After and is dedicated, as you should have guessed, to the 10th anniversary of the mother of all documents, The Joint Declaration.

In The Asian Wall Street Journal Report (Pearl, 8.30pm) Consuelo Mack analyses the chances of Washington giving GATT the green light and of US carmakers finally giving the Japanese a run for their yen.