Cherished (BBC1)

This World: Coming Of Age (BBC2)

CHERISHED was never going to be easy viewing - a mother accused of killing her babies, her enforced separation from her surviving daughter and the uncertainty the court case brings to her relationship with her husband.

The fact that we knew the ending did nothing to alleviate the pain and suffering, and make it more bearable to watch.

"This is a true story. Some of the names and circumstances have been changed", the opening caption informed us. TV's appetite for real life tales is insatiable. After Planespotting at the weekend, Cherished offered a dramatised account of Angela Channing's case. She was freed by the Appeal Court in August 2003 after serving 18 months of a life sentence for the murder of her baby sons.

She was the victim of a theory that said one cot death's a tragedy, two's suspicious and three's murder. The prosecution, it appears, had no real evidence, just theories. She was convicted all the same. New medical evidence eventually led to her conviction being quashed. Some might question the need to drag up the whole sorry mess again in the name of entertainment.

Cherished serves as a reminder that the law can make mistakes and send innocent people to prison. The law was changed as a result of her appeal. But the main reason for making the drama is because it's a compelling human story of ordinary people caught up in something they don't understand and over which they have no control.

As Angela, Sarah Lancashire was required to spend the entire time in tears or looking anguished. She caught well the sheer desperation and fear of a devoted wife and mother who should be grieving for her dead babies but instead finds herself accused of killing them. Just as good was Timothy Spall as her husband Terry, caught up in a situation that had him torn between his wife, social workers and the law.

This World dashed around the world looking at nine teenagers undergoing rites of passage, from a 16-year-old in Beijing on a week's military training to a girl in Japan learning to be a geisha. Oddly, it also featured an Inuit boy named Apak on his first hunting trip with his father, which echoed last week's Natural World documentary about another Inuit boy named Apak.

Some of the teenage activities were more alarming than others. Russian teenager Andrei joined a skinhead group whose aim was to free their land from immigrants. Rather more painful was what happened to 16-year-old Kamoti John in East Uganda. He allowed cameras - and us - to watch as he was circumcised in a tribal coming-of-age ritual.

Fame, Darlington Civic Theatre

CAN Fame live forever, just like the predictions of the show's theme song? It's certainly joined Joseph and Blood Brothers as the musicals guaranteed to fill seats outside panto season. These days the set is wobblier, 1980s leg warmers are reduced to spat-style socks and somehow Eminem, Rap and Hip-Hop form part of the language of the students from New York High School of Performing Arts. But the legion of Fame fans whoop every muscular move from Tyrone Jackson (played by Craig Stein) as the dancer "with attitude" who can't graduate until he learns to read. Gladdening North-East hearts was the welcome sight of Delia Harris, a product of the Newcastle College of Performing Arts, making her professional debut. Harris has landed the comedy role of "who ate all the pies?" Mabel Washington and shines as the food-consuming dancer turned character actor.

James Haggie is probably the strongest Joe (Jose) Vegas, the frustrated Puerto Rican stand-up comic, I've seen in the many touring versions of David de Silva's pulsating, vibrant and thought-provoking look at the price of showbiz stardom. Nearly everybody dreams of being plucked from obscurity and thrust into the spotlight, with megawatts wages to match, which is why Fame - despite the tragic lesson of drug-taking Carmen (Leila Benn Harris) - retains its grip on so many fans. The show's producers remind us that UK theatre now earns more foreign currency than banking or the car industry, but that still doesn't excuse the talentless wannabes who besiege so many talent hunts. Hard work, the Fame doctrine, is still the answer.

Viv Hardwick

* Runs until Saturday. Box Office: (01325) 486 555

African Soul Brothers,

Sage Gateshead

Sage throbbed to the beat of the African Soul Brothers in an evening that had a capacity audience hopping and bopping to a contrasting triple bill. The group Tinariwen, dressed in elegant desert robes and turbans, got the rhythm flowing with hypnotic, guitar-driven Mali Blues. The Tuareg musicians, who took part in a desert rebellion in the early 1990s, evoked the desolation of the Sahara with powerful vocal harmonies, while one of their crew shivered, shook and swivelled beneath his robes in a brilliant display of dancing. The Senegalese group Daara J then stormed onto the stage, pumping up the energy by ten notches. Getting the audience to stand throughout their act, they had everyone in the palms of their hands, waving, punching the air, jumping up and down and dancing to cue. Faeda Freddy, N'Dongo D and Aladji Man bounded and twirled across the stage.

Hailed as the first African hip hop crew, their music straddles hip hop, reggae, R&B and rap; which the group say was "born in Africa, grew up in America and has now come back home". But, while the West rap scene has a reputation of gun culture and violence, Daara J's songs deal with social issues and the perils of globalisation. The Franco-Algerian singer Rachid Taha and his group, whose funky music combines rock punk and the strains of North Africa, rounded off the evening in fitting style.

Gavin Engelbrecht