Kent Farnsworth recalls what his father, Philo, thought about television. 'Throughout my childhood his reaction to television was: 'There's nothing on it worthwhile, and we're not going to watch it in this household, and I don't want it in your intellectual diet'.' But in People Of The Century (World, 10pm), Philo Farnsworth is remembered as the genius who invented television. Folklore has it that when he was just 14, while tilling his family's potato field with a horse-drawn harrow, he had the inspiration that an electron beam could scan images on a screen in the same way as the harrow etched patterns on the earth. In 1927, aged 21, he put the principle into practice, creating the first television picture. Farnsworth's achievement is recognised by being included in the CBS and Time list of '20 Great Minds, Great Discoveries'. But like some other great minds featured in the programme, he did not receive credit at the time. Corporate America, in the form of the Radio Corporation of America, contested his claim and fought a bitter legal battle over royalties. Farnsworth won, but his royalty rights ran out long before profits were made from his invention. His disappointment contributed to a nervous breakdown. And he was not just disappointed by his treatment at the hands of industry executives who tried to write him out of the history of television, but by having created a monster that allowed people to 'waste a lot of their lives'. It is a feeling some share when their children are determined to waste 30 minutes of their day glued to repeats of the blatantly commercial melodramatics of My Fair Princess II (Home, 6.30pm). Farnsworth might have regarded People Of The Century as a little more worthwhile, for being a chance to look back and remember amazing minds like his. But the medium of this programme is strictly limited for such a task. The three minutes designated to Albert Einstein, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jean Piaget can only whet the appetite. For more, we have to turn to the inventions of two others on the list: Alan Turing, the unhappy mathematician recalled by Bill Gates for his work that underpinned the development of the computer, and Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the World-Wide Web. The Time Web site ( www.time.com ) is worth visiting for more intriguing details of the lives and works of these great people. Television is usually worthwhile when Sir David Attenborough is involved. The Life Of Birds (Pearl, 10.45pm) continues its encyclopaedic study of the bird world, this week focusing on The Problems Of Parenthood. We learn of little-known parenting practices: model parents feed their youngsters feathers to aid digestion or spit water over them to protect them from the heat. Attenborough gets caught in the shower while filming the spitting storks. But not all birds are so caring. Coots commit child abuse and infanticide to weed out the weakest and the young cuckoo duck never sees its parents. Its egg is laid in a gull's nest and on hatching it slips away to make its own way in the world.