ALL things being relative, The Towering Inferno (Pearl, 9.30pm) is a decent disaster film. It is questionable, however, whether it is a decent film. The characters are cardboard, and played mostly by has-beens or never weres. Faye Dunaway looks stoned, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen ('When are you architects ever going to learn?') look like two men who want to get their pay cheques and go home, and Fred Astaire and Jennifer Jones are as timid as mice. Ms Jones never did make the big time, despite a chest-heaving start in 1955 in Love Is A Many Splendored Thing, in which she went swimming in Tai Tam Bay with William Holden, who also features. For her, The Towering Inferno was a late comeback that never was. For O J Simpson, retired footballer, it was the beginning of a second career. He plays a security guard who spends much of the film trying to rescue a cat. There is no indication that his knees were impairing his mobility. And so several generations of blue-eyed charmers act their roles as if each were under a separate glass bell jar. McQueen is the caring and sharing fire chief, Newman the architect, Richard Chamberlain the dastardly developer who cuts corners with the electrics. The cast is shoehorned into a spangly glass tower and the sucker is torched. From there on in it's an exercise in getting everybody out. The drama is handled with showmanship and good old-fashioned expertise. The directors (there were two) take a gleeful delight in showing numerous scenes of someone horribly in flames. Thankfully, the film marked the end of Hollywood's disaster cycle. The Towering Inferno is relentlessly padded Grade-A spectacle with Grade-B characters. Look out also for Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner and Dabney Coleman. IN The Barings Debacle: Sir David Frost Interviews Nick Leeson (World, 9.35pm), Leeson does his public relations bit. For the BBC the interview was a worthy scoop. For the rogue trader extraordinaire it was the chance to show everyone what a misunderstood victim he is and to push for a trial in Britain, where the authorities might be more lenient than those currently slavering in Singapore. For the audience it's a chance to decide whether Leeson is deserving of our sympathy, or whether he is the insufferable yuppie the British press have gladly pigeon-holed him as. Sir David interviewed him in Hoechst Prison, Frankfurt. It was Leeson's first interview since the collapse of Barings and will not be his last. The man who accrued GBP860 million (about HK$6.7 billion) in debt for his company has secured the services of a public relations agent, who in turn has secured a lucrative book deal. FOX MULDER (David Duchovny) is being painted in The X-Files (Pearl, 8.30pm) as a man with minor psychological problems. He's the Bruce Wayne of the FBI, with a dark side that the producers of the first series kept hidden. Now, in the second series, he is always being shot in the half-light. Scully (Gillian Anderson) gets the same treatment. She does autopsies at night, a strange way for a nice girl to make a living, or taps into other people's computers while the moon shines through Venetian blinds. The X-Files has become a cult television show with attitude, with all sorts of nods and winks to real life. In this evening's episode Mulder's Deep Throat, another character perpetually in shadow, lends a hand with the hunt for a creature in the sewage system. The creature looks like something you might expect to catch in Victoria Harbour, and turns out to be a product of the Chernobyl accident. THE documentary Subtle As A Serpent (World, 8.35pm) is timed to cash in on the demise of the poor individual in Malaysia who was asphyxiated and half-eaten by a python. The case caught the imagination of Malaysians and Hong Kongers, who saw photographs of the dead man in local news magazines. Subtle As A Serpent is beautifully filmed and level-headed.