The flight of the bird watchers

Teri Fitsell

IF you don't want to spend two hours watching race horses gallop round Happy Valley, you might as well switch off and go out to a real movie tonight rather than waste time watching Wild Geese II, whose only discernible connection to the original is the title.

Still, at least in WG II (Pearl 9.30pm, Original Running Time 125 mins) we finally learn what a ''wild goose'' is: ''A professional mercenary soldier,'' tautologically explains Scott Glenn (The Silence of the Lambs).

Glenn is just such a goose, hire by TV mogul Robert McCann (Robert Webber) to spring Rudolf Hess (Laurence Olivier) from Spandau prison so that he can make a ratings-reaping appearance on television, reveal the secrets of Hitler's rise to power and rip the lid off the secrets of the civilised world.

Made in 1985, the film takes a few swipes at the Russkies, and for good measure the Irish and the Palestinians come in for some stick too.

The old soldiers of the original - Richard Harris, Richard Burton and Roger Moore - are replaced by lesser mortals like Edward Fox and Stratford Johns, and this time they've even allowed a girlie (Barbara Carrera) to play.

THE BBC's fascinating insight into the less publicised aspects of the fashion industry ends today, with the last episode of The Look (Pearl 8.30pm) concentrating on the long reigning king of couture Yves Saint Laurent.

YSL is the designer's designer and creator of one of the world's most successful couture house, yet this intensely private man is still dogged by self-doubt.

GORGEOUS, pouting Aussie Mel Gibson is in the hot seat for E! Extreme Close-Up (STAR Plus 7pm). Gibson, star of successes like the Mad Max and Lethal Weapon movies, talks about his new career as film director.

Gibson's directorial debut, The Man Without a Face, in which he also stars, has been drawing rave reviews in the US. He will be explaining why, when he's known for his own pretty face, he wanted to make a movie about a disfigured man.

So far, the Extreme Close-Up series has proved disappointing. The pilot was an interview with Tom Cruise which bordered on the soporific, and the second show looked at authoress Jackie Collins, interviewed by a hysterical female who rarely stopped giggling. Let us hope that Mel gets better treatment.

AN operation that went tragically wrong is the subject of The Hong Kong Connection (Pearl 7.25pm). The programme looks at the case of 42-year-old Mrs Wu who died in a private hospital after being given a gall bladder dissecting operation which, her family claim, was meant to be routine.

Mrs Wu's family are now fighting for the right to see the medical records and reports on the operation, to find out whether or not the hospital was negligent.

THE news is not good for the many American football fans who keep ringing in to ask why Pearl has not begun its usual Saturday morning coverage of the NFL season, now into its fourth week.

TVB Pearl spokeswoman Veronica Chiu says the station has no plans at the moment to cover the sport regularly, preferring instead to concentrate its efforts on the build-up to next year's soccer World Cup in the US.

Looks like the choice for English language-speaking sports fans is rapidly being reduced to soccer, soccer, or soccer.

And while we're on the subject. What has happened to the Italian Soccer programme shown on Sunday mornings? The appeal of last season's slick programme has been massively reduced by the introduction of a match commentator whose vocabulary largely consists of the word ''er''. It's painful to listen.