ON December 22, 1955, James Dean filmed his final scene in Giant (World, 9.30pm). Carol Baker, Rock Hudson and director George Stevens were viewing clips from the movie when the phone rang. Stevens took it, turned pale, and said: 'There's been a crash. Jimmy Dean has been killed.' The actor died in the new Porsche he'd bought with his salary from Giant. Just days earlier he had filmed a television commercial urging motorists to 'drive carefully'. It was the end of a short-lived but fast-paced career and the end of a short-lived but fast-paced life. In the aptly-named Giant, Dean, the ultimate rebel without a cause, plays an ageing, greying rancher alongside Elizabeth Taylor and 1955's biggest box-office attraction, Rock Hudson, in Edna Ferber's epic tale of Texan life spread over two generations. Many have criticised the performances of all three as stodgy and unconvincing. In fact, Hudson gave one of his best as a strait-laced cattle baron married to Taylor, who also turned in a fine-tuned portrayal as his Virginia belle transplanted to Texas. Of course, it was Dean's presence that ran away with the film. He performed his role in the rather overwrought method manner of the era - and it's this that many viewers have problems with. It seems both awesome and indulgent. He is, indeed, a strange spectacle as he greys in the role of a less-than-respectable middle-aged rancher who strikes it rich with oil, but it hints at the kind of actor he would have become had his life not been so tragically cut short. Yes, at 201 minutes it's too long; and yes, it's dated, but it was made 40 years ago and the times they have a'changed. If it's not your bag, watch it for the fine landscape photography. THE same goes for Heaven's Gate (World, 2.20am). It is stunningly photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond on magnificent Wyoming locations and the period detail is astonishing. But despite the big-name cast - Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert, Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Sam Waterston, Mickey Rourke and Willem Dafoe, to mention but a few - it's best known for being one of Hollywood's most expensive flops. It's really not as bad as all that. Perhaps there was a conspiracy; the American press certainly went on a witch-hunt against the film's unAmerican activities. It's based around the true story of the conflict between immigrant settlers of 19th century Wyoming and the ruthless American empire-builders who wanted them eliminated. Rich cattle barons legally exterminated the poor immigrant farmers who took to cattle rustling to feed their starving families. Moral compromise on a national scale is in question. And that's something we all know Americans don't feel comfortable with. The film, from Academy Award-winner Michael Cimino, the director of 'un-American' The Deer Hunter, played for just a week. The following year, it was re-edited from 219 minutes down to 153, but it flopped again. ROSWELL (Pearl, 9.30pm), with Kyle MacLachlan and Martin Sheen, is also based on a true story. Well, an allegedly true story. The one about how aliens came down to Earth in the middle of the US in 1947 and had nice little chats with everyone. Maybe they stayed and entered the body of Kyle MacLachlan and sent him on his weird way. It's light entertainment - something we can do with plenty of at this time of year - and Sheen is always a joy. BUT lest we forget there are those less fortunate than ourselves, we must turn to Donahue (STAR Plus, 4am and noon), who is unlikely to win in the ratings war. The award-winning talkshow host turns to the cheery subjects of teenagers surviving on the street by selling sex and diet doctors showing us the best way to lose weight. Put that off until the New Year and have another box of chocolates. It's Christmas, for goodness sake.