A word of warning: if you are a fan of Ursula K. Le Guin's books, you might want to make plans for tonight that do not involve a television set. If you have no idea who Le Guin is, on the other hand, you might find sword and sorcery miniseries Earthsea (ATV, today at 9pm, concludes next Sunday) mildly enjoyable in places - although it will probably leave you feeling rather short-changed. Making a film of a much-loved classic book is always a risky endeavour and there have been several adaptations from the fantasy genre recently: the incredibly successful The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the less popular The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to name two. Judging by the number of disappointed Le Guin fans who have posted their grievances on the internet, though, Earthsea, directed by journeyman television director Robert Lieberman, may well have been a mistake. The first book in the Earthsea quartet, A Wizard of Earthsea, was published in 1968 and the stories proved immensely popular, never having been out of print since. The miniseries, made for the US-based Sci-Fi Channel in 2004, is based on the first two volumes - 'loosely', says Le Guin. 'It's full of scenes from the story, arranged differently, in an entirely different plot, so that they make no sense.' Even the colour of the characters, she says, is wrong. 'My protagonist is Ged, a boy with red-brown skin. In the film, he's a petulant white kid.' Le Guin's article, A Whitewashed Earthsea: How the Sci-Fi Channel Wrecked My Books, can be found at online news and culture magazine Slate.com. At least the show's plot is suitably fantastical. Protected by high priestess Thar (Isabella Rossellini; Blue Velvet), the Amulet of Peace has insured harmony between humans and dragons on the islands of Earthsea for centuries. All is well until the amulet is broken in two and one of its pieces goes missing, leaving the archipelago vulnerable to evil forces. The only hope for Earthsea is an impetuous young lad named Ged (Shawn Ashmore; X-Men trilogy), a blacksmith's son who discovers he possesses magical powers and must master them to save Earthsea from destruction. It all sounds promising, but the result is bland - one can't help making comparisons with the depth, scope and magic of The Lord of the Rings even though one probably shouldn't, this being a miniseries - and the acting patchy. The bored, world-weary outlook of evil King Tygath (Sebastian Roche; Odyssey 5) is thoroughly entertaining, for example, although I'm not sure it's meant to be. It's not all disappointment, however: the script does have flashes of wit. When Ged is learning to become a wizard, for instance, his mentor, Ogion (Danny Glover; Lethal Weapon), says: 'I don't want you to become a powerful wizard until you've mastered yourself, which requires years of roaming the hills, gathering herbs, learning their nature. Letting knowledge seep into your bones.' 'Seep,' says impatient Ged. 'Why is that such an unattractive word?' A few of the scenes, too, have been created with an imagination the rest of the film lacks. These scenes are a delight, but only go to highlight what the film could have been. One that stands out for its originality takes place in the library at the wizards' training school on Roke Island - and if a school for wizards sounds familiar, bear in mind the Earthsea books were written 30 years before Harry Potter came onto the scene. Who the film is aimed at is a puzzle. A couple of bedroom scenes and a grizzly strangulation take it out of the realm of children's television, but it doesn't have the subtlety and sophistication to keep most adults entertained. Your time would probably be better spent going to the library, borrowing the Earthsea books and reading them instead. Back in the real world, Final 24 (Discovery Channel, Fridays at 10pm) is a rather depressing new series analysing the untimely deaths of six famous people. The first episode is a morbid countdown of the final hours of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious (portrayed above), a vulnerable lad who was prey to an obsessive groupie girlfriend and an overbearing, misguided mother. (Anyone whose mother is there to greet them on their release from prison with a supply of heroin is going to be in trouble.) Other lives (and deaths) in the series include those of John Belushi, River Phoenix, Hunter S. Thompson, Marvin Gaye and John F. Kennedy Jnr. While Sid was vicious by name, the leopard seal (below) is vicious by nature. It is three metres long, weighs 500kg and is 'a seal unlike any other', according to the narrator of Leopard Seals: Lords of the Ice (National Geographic Channel Wild, Thursday at 10pm). One of the few marine mammals to eat other marine mammals, it spends most of its life lying in wait for unsuspecting penguins and the only creature it fears is the killer whale. In this fascinating film, underwater cameraman Goran Ehlme goes diving with the seals in Antarctica to find out what makes them so aggressive. Perhaps they're Le Guin fans and have seen the Earthsea adaptation.