Supertramp: Live in Paris ’ 79
Saturday, 8.30pm, Studio
English band Supertramp came to international prominence in 1974 with its third album, Crime of the Century. By 1979, sixth album Breakfast in America had been launched and the band undertook a gruelling 10-month world tour to promote the new record. Perhaps as a result, Breakfast in America became the biggest selling album in the world that year. The tour began in March in Boulder, Colorado, and by November Supertramp had conquered France. This concert film shows the band at its performance peak and basking in the frenzied adoration of audiences on a particularly memorable night in Paris near the end of the tour. It’s pretty much a straightforward filmed concert, though the band’s trademark background videos are displayed in full screen. Great tunes, great playing and horn players in trousers that are far too tight. Baby boomer nostalgia writ large.
Sunday, 6.30pm, Animal Planet There is much to enjoy in this beautiful documentary about one of the coldest, most inhospitable places on earth. Lovers of natural history television will find themselves in familiar territory but the program is distinguished enough to contain many new angles on old information. Did you know that female polar bears weighing up to 500kg give birth to cubs that weigh just 600g? That male polar bears don’t hibernate, spending months wandering alone in the freezing dark of winter? Early in the program a pod of beluga whales gets trapped beneath the ice with just a small hole for the entire pod to breathe through. Starving and weakened they make excellent prey for hungry polar bears. The landscape, filmed in winter twilight and glaring daylight, seems almost impossibly beautiful. Highly recommended.
Monday, 8.30pm, Discovery The debut of the eighth season for the guys who get to blow stuff up for a living. Ah, I’ve missed Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman: they remind me so much of kids I liked at primary school. And there was a time, not so long ago, when Mythbusters was all over payTV like a rash, then it seemed to vanish. Happily, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and our mates are up to their old tricks. Tonight the topic is things that may cause an otherwise careful driver to swerve off the straight and narrow, such as shoes with spike heels or vertiginous platforms. Savage and Hyneman take one for the team by putting on fancy shoes and heading for a stunt-driving track. The blokes also explore the notion that it’s not a great idea to drive when you are desperate to take a pee. It has nothing to do with alcohol — which is clearly a no-no when driving — but the effect a bursting bladder has on concentration. To show how it works, Adam has a contest with himself. In one corner is a brain addled with booze; in the other a bladder filled to endurance point and beyond.
Sunday, 8.40pm, UKTV Ready for some tip-top British crime? This four-part miniseries, written by Tony Basgallop ( Sirens, Worried About the Boy, Hotel Babylon), should fit the bill. It begins with a brutal armed robbery at a counting house (places exist with the sole purpose of counting money?) in Bristol. The voiceover by abducted counting house worker John (Steven Mackintosh) as he moves about the building under duress to let the robbers in is chilling. The actual robbery is not just convincing, it’s terrifying. After about 10 excruciatingly nail-biting minutes the tension eases off a bit as we flash back nine months to see who these people are and what motivated the robbers to commit the crime. Be warned, this is not for the faint of heart, or for those who cannot bear graphic depictions of horrendous injuries inflicted by psychopaths in masks.
Tuesday, 9.30pm, LifeStyle Home Fans of Survivor will likely remember former wrestler turned oil services company owner Russell Hantz as one of the show’s most annoyingly successful villains. In Flipped Off, Hantz, his brother Shawn and real estate agent Kristen Bredehoeft use all the strength, rat cunning and ingenuity they can muster between them to flip houses — that is, to do up dumps and sell them fast. It’s hardly a new idea — even rapper Vanilla Ice has a version of the format called The Vanilla Ice Project. While Russell is credited as the Boss in the high- energy title sequence, nobody seems to have told Shawn, who is credited merely as the Brother. They fight a lot, as brothers, especially brothers in reality TV shows, are wont to do. But Bredehoeft (the Broker) is no slouch in the conflict department either. ‘‘ Don’t kiss his ass,’’ Shawn yells at her tonight. ‘‘ I’ll kiss anyone’s ass I like,’’ she retorts. It’s all a bit bogus and manipulative but, as with Survivor, if you are prepared to go along with the various conceits and ignore the obvious manipulations, it’s quite a ride. Tonight the team is in Houston, Texas. After some tedious three-way bitch fights about whether they should acquire a stinky dump are resolved, the sweaty, heavily muscled brothers go about a demolition job with sledgehammers. Shawn hesitates when the time comes to smash a giant mirror. He thinks it will bring him seven years of bad luck. Russell says he is an idiot and that he makes his own luck. A smashing event follows.
Unmasked: Treacher Collins Syndrome
Tuesday, 9.30pm, Bio Have you ever noticed how a train conductor will slam the doors and move the train out when he sees a bloke run for the carriage, yet grind to a screeching halt for a pretty girl? How handsome men tend to get ahead faster than shmos who are smarter? According to this documentary, good-looking people have more money, more friends and are likelier to be helped by strangers in an emergency. So what does that mean for someone born at the other end of the spectrum? This documentary cleverly captures the plight of unconventional-- looking people who suffer from Treacher Collins syndrome, a disfiguring condition of the face seen in just one in 10,000 births. TCS is an equal opportunity ailment — it does not discriminate by race or sex. It can be inherited or occur randomly. The classic features are an underdeveloped jaw, missing cheekbones, downward-slanting eyes and badly formed or missing ears. The syndrome also ranges from mild to severe in different individuals. The reactions to children and adults with this condition vary from curious staring to open distrust, teasing and sometimes blatant hostility. But the sufferers here are not interested in playing the victim. A fascinating excursion into how superficial we can be in the way we judge by appearances.
Location, Location, Location
Wednesday, 8.30pm, LifeStyle Welcome to season 14 of this program in which real estate professionals Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer scour the English market to match fussy buyers with perfect homes. Tonight our hosts are in Liverpool and, in a nice touch, the already funky soundtrack fades into a solid rock structure based on the chord changes of the Beatles’ I Saw Her Standing There. Not the real thing, of course, because that would have cost money, and if Kirstie and Phil are about anything it’s about keeping a tight rein on budgets. The music really does engender a sense of place. I find all the mucking about with this house and that a bit tedious. However, almost as a side effect of this program, Liverpool is now firmly on the list of places I’d really like to visit.
One Car Too Far
Wednesday, 9.30pm, Discovery In this bizarre adventure series a car is dangled from a helicopter and flown to a remote corner of South America where it is dropped on to the frozen peak of a volcano. Then the stars of the show, former British Special Forces soldier Gary Humphrey and California car enthusiast Bill Wu, are dropped somewhere in Chile with the challenge of first finding the vehicle, then somehow driving it back to civilisation. It’s like Star Trek for motorists as the two drive where no car has gone before. It’s also a little bit Top Gear, a little bit Survivor and a little bit Man Vs. Wild. Other than that it’s completely original. Surprisingly engaging despite its obvious mongrel origins.
Friday, 8.30pm, National Geographic I am a confirmed sci-fi nut so this program makes me giggle, mostly because it takes itself so seriously. It has the kind of soundtrack we hear in reality outings such as Race Around the World, all bombast and tension strings as three UFO chasers race across America in search of abductees, sightings and cover-ups. The formula goes like this: take one believer (James Fox), one sceptic (Ben McGee) and one undecided person (Erin Ryder), and get them to investigate UFO phenomena to see if anybody changes their mind. The problem with UFO sightings is that, despite kooks and abductees by the truckload, no one has ever managed to filch an alien cigarette lighter, a probe or even show off natty alien surgery that would stand up as evidence. And that’s all from me for a few weeks. Stephen Matchett, who covers free-to-air TV this week, and other Review writers will be filling in here and in our online videos while I’m on leave. See you in November.