It's that funny time of year again - not quite autumn, not quite winter, with the shittier aspects of both and the advantages of neither, weather-wise at least. Like walking past a stadium and hearing the distant dischord of a Phil Collins concert, the horror of Christmas is thankfully still too far away - just - to worry about, with its tyrannical cheer and myopic adulation of the infantile. It's a bit of a dead time, so thank goodness for Rome (Wed 9pm BBC2). Everything we've read about this has left us frothing with anticipation - let's see, circuses, orgies, scheming, battles, lots and lots of full-frontal nudity, and the best-looking cast this side of the Campo de' Fiori. As regular readers know, we at Londonist simply cannot get enough of the Romans - they're even cooler than the Vikings. Hell, they're cooler than pirates AND ninjas. HBO and the BBC have gone to extraordinary lengths to make this series look as good as possible:
The Roman coins were all made at the Vatican mint, and have the likeness of the series' Caesar, Ciarán Hinds, stamped on them.
How cool would that be, and how much of a power trip? Sorry, Brenda, we think Ciáran's profile is far better suited to reproduction in miniature. Fewer chins, for one thing. Reckon we can buy any of those coins on eBay? (Anyone interested in this era of Roman history would be well advised to try Colleen McCullough's magisterial Masters Of Rome books, starting with The First Man In Rome - we cannot recommend them highly enough.) Better yet, Lost (Wed 10pm C4) is on immediately after, so you have just enough time to make a hot chocolate and grab a biscuit. The settings couldn't be more different - a deserted (ha!) island, the centre of the most powerful empire the world has ever known - but the intrigue and the drama at the heart of both shows makes them spiritual siblings.
So, it's Halloween tonight; sadly, the best that TV has to offer tonight is The Real Witch Project (Mon 11.05pm Five), which sounds bonkers - six women learn to unlock their inner Grotbags under the tutelage of one Gielless Codd - NVQ teacher by day, queen of the night by, er, night. TV Troll would like to ask where the men are in all of this - has the witching community not heard of the Equal Opportunities act? Technically, a male witch is known as a warlock, and The Real Witch And Warlock Project doesn't echo as closely
The Bare Bitch Project The Blair Witch Project, but if women are going to sit around making arses of themselves chanting and burning hanks of hair, then men should bloody well be included too.
A couple of oddities on Wednesday (before your Rome/Lost marathon, of course): Force Fed (Wed 7pm BBC2) examines the culture of female obesity in Mauritania, and the nastier side of it that involves stuffing women full of butter until they are unable to look after themselves - we don't think this is going to be one to watch over your dinner. Then Rough Science (Wed 7.30pm BBC2) sticks a load of scientists out in the Colorado wilderness and gets them to hook up an electricity supply from scratch (insert your favourite how many physicists does it take to change a lightbulb joke here). It'll be worth watching for tips on how to hook up your TV after the oil crash, avian flu or whatever this week's disaster is destroys civilisation as we know it. A post-apocalyptic future, fair enough - it can't be much worse than Tottenham Court Road at 1am on a Friday. Same post-apocalyptic future, without TV? Sod that.
Tuesday's TV is breaking into a fit of bloke-ness this week: ITV is launching ITV4 on cable/satellite/Freeview with some sort of sporting event (Real Betis v Chelsea, Champions' League, Tue 7.45pm ITV4), then an updated Kojak starring Ving Rhames (Tue 10pm ITV4), then a blokey film (Carlito's Way, Tue 10.50pm ITV4) about crime and drugs and blokes with guns and grr can you smell the testosterone? We can hardly contain our excitement. If that fails to capture you, then the unwholesome and oh-so-outraged Donal MacIntyre has yet another show on Five (is he shagging their chief executive or something?), namely the Big Sting: Yobs (Tue 8pm Five), wherein a car is left on a dodgy estate and crime ensues. What a surprise.
ITV4 picks up a bit later this week with Invasion: Iowa (Thur 10.30pm ITV4), which sounds genius, in the My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé mould: a complete film crew, with William Shatner in tow, descends on Bumfuck, Iowa (pop. 290) to shoot a fictitious "movie", and we get to sit back and enjoy the culture clash results. Over on More4 (our favourite new Freeview channel), Morgan Spurlock gets someone to volunteer each week to see how much a life can be changed in a month, in a project with echoes of thespark.com's classic Fat Project - sadly no longer extant at its old address ... can anyone help? This week: is it possible to reverse the ageing process? It all depends on if you believe what the cosmetics companies tell you or not.
Final snippets: Simon's not doing too well in X Factor (Sat 6.50pm/9.10pm ITV1); controversial culture-hater, liberal-baiter and tax-evader Michel Houellebecq is on
The Charter Renewal Show The Culture Show (with thanks to Private Eye, Thur 7pm BBC2); who is the Best-Selling Artist Of The 21st Century (Sun 8pm C4)? - good thing the programme is about musicians, as we had a horrible feeling it was going to be dedicated to the unspeakable Jack Vettriano ("egregious cocktails of fake sentiment and hackneyed erotica"); the Rock School kids support Motörhead in the series finale (Fri 9.30pm C4) ... Happy watching, dear readers!