If you're looking for someone to host a show called "The Human Face" — a show that is, in large part, about what makes people attractive — would John Cleese be the first person you'd think of? Probably not, as he readily admits.

But while we learn much about the advantages of being good-looking in the four-part, four-hour documentary on The Learning Channel (Sunday and Monday, 10-midnight), we also learn that Cleese — with his breezy, fun and entertaining style — is the perfect host.

"Well, John is beautiful in the inside, right John?" said Stephen Marquardt, a maxillofacial surgeon whose research into the science of beauty is featured in the program.

"Yes, and very few people notice it, unfortunately," Cleese replied.

Marquardt has worked up this mathematical model of what makes a person attractive — something about a "golden ratio" of 1.618 to 1. A specialist at UCLA, he "did surgery for 30 years to make people attractive. And I wondered why some of the people that I worked on turned out beautiful (and) why some didn't turned out so (beautiful). And I began studying human attractiveness and it turns out that there is a code for beauty."

All of which is a great deal more entertaining as presented by Cleese, who manages to make "The Human Face" a great deal of fun, actually. (He also co-wrote the companion book, which is of the coffee-table variety.) The four parts of the series are:

"Beauty," which looks at why some people are born attractive an other aren't.

"Fame," which looks at how famous faces seem to have power and influence today.

"In Your Face" looks at how the face has evolved and how we can remember so many different faces (no two are alike).

"When You're Smiling" looks at how even the most fleeting of facial expressions "influence our interior, marital and social lives."

"The Human Face" can be downright annoying at times, however. When, for example, Pierce Brosnan bemoans the fact that he's too "pretty," you want to smack him. And the doctors aren't always a lot of help, either.

"There's a zone of attractiveness between the ages of 14 and 24 when humans are the most attractive they are ever going to be," Marquardt said

And Cleese talks about the "halo effect," which tends to make life easy for those people blessed with beauty.

"They get a lot of attributes given to them by us which they may not actually have," he said — attributes like intelligence, strength of character, etc. "And if you're beautiful, your life is quite easy.

"But my wife, who's a psychoanalyst, points out (that) as a result, beautiful people frequently don't develop . . . any other aspects of themselves. So when they start losing their looks, these people get really terrified because that's all they have."

So there!


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com