Aliens versus yoof

THE LATEST ALIEN invaders to land in Cardiff use the city's sewers as their base to make raids on humanity and live off our waste.

PC Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) is called when a corpse is found. But she and her colleagues are elbowed out the way by the yoofy special investigation squad - led by familiar Doctor Who character Jack Harkness (John Borrowman) - assembled to check out the aforementioned monsters. Our Gwen finds a nice vantage point up a multi-storey car park and watches the squad bring the corpse briefly back to life. Not knowing they just want evidence about the murder, she is suspicious and infiltrates their base disguised as a pizza delivery woman. She's obviously never seen any TV science fiction, though. Once inside she looks very worried every time a door shuts electronically behind her. But her fighting temperament must have impressed the anti-monster squad. They make Gwen an offer to join their team.

They are very annoying to work with. They overact yoofy scorn about Gwen's ignorance way beyond what is necessary. This is obviously cold calculation on the part of the BBC about its demographic, since there's nothing the average teen likes better than over-acted scorn. They're also a scary bunch of rule-flouters who try out the aliens' toys for their own selfish ends. One of the gang has purloined a spray perfume that turns people on. He uses it to pick up girls, and if their boyfriends object he sprays them too and they all head off together for a threesome.

So far, the show is hovering in moral ambivalence about the team's twattish behaviour. I not very eagerly await PC Gwen Cooper sorting them out in future episodes. Torchwood seems to me to be as nonsensical and full of holes and unexciting as the genre always is. But what do I know? Friends tell me science-fiction enacts the dreamlife of teenagers of all ages in a way that more realistic fiction cannot. I'm sure it will be a massive hit.

Stirring up the fires of hatred is a male activity, and not to be allowed in the domestic environment. I think I got this impression during childhood from Scotland's two main cultural imports, English and American television. The only problem was that it didn't tally with what I saw in friends and relatives' homes all over Glasgow - women stirring up religious hatred with big gulps of pleasure.

So it's a joy to see The Catherine Tate Show (Thursday, BBC 2, 9pm) nail this brand of femininity, in a sketch about an embattled Ulster protestant mother turning her fight-seeking equipment full-on in defence of her gay son. The running gag goes on to feature Ulster hardmen marching up to her door threateningly, only to ask her son for fashion advice.

I'm not a huge fan of the sketch show format. The formula of reaching the same punchline via a different route soon gets defeated by the law of diminishing returns. In the new series, Catherine's chav girl ("Am I bothered, though?") is working in a burger bar. Her mates come in and find her behind the counter in her uniform insisting she's not wearing a uniform or working in a burger bar. Pushing the bare-faced denial to such lengths is fun, but having seen it so often the laughs come from prior knowledge rather than genuinely having your comedy itch scratched. Dangerous rapidly mutates into cosy. TV sketches are ultimately a bit thankless. They gobble up material and end up being repetitive. I hope Tate goes on to make a sitcom.

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