Hooray for Vic and Bob

SHOOTING STARS (BBC2) lARRY MURPHY: A YEAR IN HIDING (TV3)THEY'RE BACK: Vic and Bob return for a new series of Shooting Stars

Last night was a great one for the oldies, with a venerable favourite returning, if not quite from the dead, then to the continuing amazement, not to mention joy, of many of us.

Anarchic panel game Shooting Stars was back for its eighth series since 1993.

Few things in life, let alone on television, stay around that long.

There have been interruptions along the way to do other things, not all of them well-advised, including Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer's curiously flat remake of iconic Sixties series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), about a private detective and his ghostly partner, and Vic's role (much more satisfying) as the father of Eric Morecambe, who he's now a dead ringer for, in the drama Eric & Ern earlier this year.

You always get the sense, though, that their hearts are really in Shooting Stars. There's no reason in the world why the sight of two men, both aged 52, larking around in tights -- which they did for the whole of last night's show -- should be funny, but it is.

"They're SO juvenile!" said my 11-year-old daughter, watching Shooting Stars for the first time and tickled by the surreal madness of it all. And that, I suspect, is the key to it. Vic and Bob have never changed. They've never grown up.

Series regulars like Mark Lamarr, an original, much-abused panellist, and Matt Lucas, in the guise of drum-playing, babygro-clad scorekeeper George Dawes, have long since moved on, but Vic and Bob are still there, doing what they've always done and doing it as well as ever. And I could watch it forever.

Team captain and the duo's full-time punchline punchbag Ulrika ("Ulrika-ka-ka") Jonsson barely got a look-in. Neither did Jack Dee, a man not usually stuck for a quip or two. Celebrity chef James Martin didn't, as far as I can recall from between fits of laughter, say a single word, not even when Vic and Bob made him squat over tin cans of various sizes and "poo" out sausages.

God knows what Brigitte Nielsen thought of the whole experience, but she looked like she enjoyed the bit where Bob drilled a hole in Vic's head and milkshake started spurting out through a straw.

I bet being married to Sylvester Stallone was never this weird. Or this much fun.

Shooting Stars isn't the only thing on television that hasn't changed. You could take six of TV3's crime documentaries and line them up against a wall, but you still wouldn't be able to recognise one from the other.

Larry Murphy: A Year in Hiding did what everything in the channel's take on this particular sub-genre does: it spewed out appalling facts and revolting detail in a tone of outrage, and then invited the viewer to revel in them.

As anyone who's ever read a newspaper knows, Murphy, a carpenter from Baltinglass in Co Wicklow, was in 2001 convicted of the kidnapping, multiple rape and attempted murder of a young Carlow woman in the Wicklow Mountains.

He was in the process of strangling his victim with a plastic bag when two hunters happened upon the scene, causing him to flee.

He was arrested the following morning. Having admitted everything, Murphy, who is still the prime suspect in the disappearance of a number of women in the Leinster region in the 1990s, was eventually sentenced to 15 years in prison, but served just 10.

Because he was sentenced before the passing of the Sex Offenders Act in 2001, Murphy is at large without being subject to a post-release supervision order.

There's an important, indeed vital, documentary to be made about the case.

His is a story that is well worth exploring.

A Year in Hiding brought together a lot of the known facts - but there is much more to be done on this story .

SHOOTING STARS HHHHH larry murphy: a year in hiding HIIII