AFTER graduating from Yale in 1982 with an impressive degree in Chinese language and literature, Mark Salzman moved to China for two years where he taught English and studied martial arts. That was all very well, but he had to spoil everything by making a film about it. He also wrote the screenplay and starred. The result is Iron and Silk (World, 9.30pm), a pretty but pretty boring account of a bookish young westerner's life among the rosy-cheeked peasants of Hunan. Confucius, he says . . . The China inhabited by Salzman - he plays Mark Franklin, a fictionalised version of himself - is not the China inhabited by more than one billion Chinese. It is a place bursting with naive but happy folk, whose every utterance is both simple and wise. Everyone has a rustic glow about them, just like those happy people on communist family planning advertisements. All the cliches of East meets West are here. Franklin meets one of the most famous martial artists in China. Ahhh, glasshopper. He meets and falls in love with a beautiful but inscrutable girl. The foreign devil had come to teach, but instead the simple peasants taught him. Iron and Silk made a better book. It was nominated for a Pulitzer and won the Christopher Award. But in director Shirley Sun's film everything becomes so black and white. Ironically, Salzman chose Sun to direct the film because he had been worried about duplicating Hollywood stereotypes of China. 'I found that very stupid and I did not want to take that risk,' he said. Salzman admitted after his two years in China that he found it fascinating, but would not want to go back, at least not for long. IF you have a dish point it in the direction of STAR-TV and watch The Householder (STAR Plus, 8.30pm) and The Perfect Murder (STAR Plus, 12 midnight and 3.30am). Both are produced by Merchant-Ivory, the people who brought you all those sumptuous films about Britain when it was Britain, not just a small island off the north coast of France. The Householder is a 1963 drama based on Ruth Jhablava's novel of the same name. It concerns the coming of age of an ingenuous Indian youth named Prem. The Perfect Murder, released in 1988, is not as good, but still an important part of the M-I portfolio. A Bombay detective investigates an attempted murder, with a little diamond-smuggling on the side. This is more slapstick than thriller and suffers because of it. THE current affairs programme Inside Story (World, 8.30pm) has been making news of its own, with the departure of editor and presenter Sally Round. Her shoes have been taken by Susan Yu, the station's new public affairs editor. Yu is promising to pick up where Round left off, but with less dependence on old stories and greater emphasis on scoops. This evening's reports range from AIDS to traffic pollution and the potential danger of motorists who leave their engines running while filling up with petrol, something that should not happen, but often does. It comes as no surprise that drivers of Public Light Buses are particularly guilty. They often put their passengers at risk. Lawmakers and safety advocates are pressing for a clampdown, but police say there is only so much they can do. IF you are not already sick of Hayao Miyazaka's collection, you soon will be. Only Yesterday (Pearl, 9.30pm) is the fourth in four weeks and is a cartoon about Taeko, a typical working girl from Tokyo who becomes frustrated with routine and decides to take a long holiday in the country. THE police comedy Ripoux Contre Ripoux (Pearl, 1.55am) is French and otherwise known as Le Cop 2, which is because it is the sequel to Le Cop. Philippe Noiret and Thierry Lhermitte are two corrupt cops, now suspended from duty, who turn the tables on those who want them out of the force. The complicated and uninteresting plot is punctuated by occasional moments of comedy and intrigue, but they are few and far between. Claude Zidi wrote and directed, as he did with Le Cop.