Going To Extremes (C4); Heartless (ITV1): GEOGRAPHER Nick Middleton should have looked at the small print in his contract, although the fact that the series' title is Going To Extremes was a hint that he might not like what was in store for him in Nepal.

The clue was that this is the steepest country in the world - a dizzy, giddy, vertical country whose people live life literally on the edge.

He admitted to suffering from severe vertigo, going wobbly just going up a stepladder. So who talked him into joining the hunters climbing down sheer cliffs on bamboo ladders to harvest honey while menaced by thousands of angry wild bees?

We're used to TV presenters overcoming every obstacle put in their way, but Middleton's predicament was clearly going to take some getting over.

To limber up, he undertook a four-day climb up a glacier and shot the rapids with members of the "international geography mafia". These seemed to go all right.

A sign of things to come was joining the clerk who had measured the level of an important river three times a day for the past 30 years. Now he needed to measure the current from a flimsy-looking cable car suspended high over the river. Middleton looked decidedly uneasy as the metal cage swayed precariously above the water.

Another complication was that one in 100 people have severe, potentially fatal allergic reactions to bee stings. Middleton had to find out if he was one of them. The solution was - you've guessed it - to sting him deliberately with a bee and see how he reacted. Happily, they didn't use the honey bees, described as "the biggest and fiercest in the world", but a smaller one. He didn't have any reaction to the sting, although he admitted he rather wished he had as that would've provided a valid reason for pulling out.

The less-than-intrepid Middleton climbed to the top of the cliff. Even that was an effort. Once he was at the top and had seen the 150 metre drop, he was appalled. "From down below it looked high, from up here it looks terrifying," he said.

Even the safety ropes fixed up for him didn't allay his fears. He went over the edge, only for his "vertigo demons" to return before he reached the hunters waiting on a shelf in the cliff. He scrambled back to the top, admitting that vertigo had beaten him.

Divorce lawyer Harry Holland faced a different kind of crisis in Heartless after finding himself a changed man following a heart transplant. Instead of being selfish and randy, he was kind and compassionate. "What I loved two months ago, I hate now," he said. "I'm a barrister, the last thing I want is to be human." He went in search of the donor's family to find out about the previous owner of the heart, only to fall in love with his widow.

Heartless was an odd beast which was only to be expected from writer Caleb Ransom, whose Distant Shores showed a similar quirky humour and fantasy element. Angus Deayton, all hair extensions and blond streaks, was better at the comic than the dramatic aspects of the character but looked good in a kilt. And, unlike Nick Middleton, he wasn't required to go over the top.

Published: 05/04/2005