Quick bites Ian Cuthbertson on the best viewing
Saturday, 7.30pm, Ten This is such clever and enduring television posing as a simple reality program. It follows Chris Brown, an all-surfing, sharing and caring kind of vet who is also strikingly good-looking. Each week, Bondi Vet invites us to join Brown and his team of trusty co-workers as they treat wild and domestic animals. Take the first story tonight about a cheeky pair of Tasmanian devil siblings, one of which was injured while playing. Brown caresses the animal for the camera and encourages the little devil to tell viewers what happened. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s one of hundreds of such moments that take the program straight to the hearts of animal lovers of all ages. Just watch the devil’s determination to get attached to Brown by lodging its teeth in the webbing between the vet’s thumb and forefinger, which he manfully endures. Also tonight meet Gypsy, a six-month-old german shepherd puppy that seems terrified of almost everything, especially the camera. Gypsy has been regurgitating her food. The pup proves a most reluctant patient and will not sit still for examinations or swallow test doses of food in the surgery. The next step is endoscopy under anaesthetic. And don’t get me started on the sweetness of a dolphin that can’t stop kissing Brown. Will what lies ahead test its affection for him?
Kevin McCloud’s Man-Made Home
Sunday, 7.30pm, ABC1 We’ve followed Kevin McCloud through endless seasons of owner-builder projects ( Grand Designs), to the streets of Mumbai where he lived among the poorest people in the world ( Slumming It ) and through his travails as the architect of more livable public housing ( Kevin’s Grand Design). Now McCloud is back with a new series about building a man cave — better still, a freestanding man cave. As the man says, he has seen a lot of grand projects in his time but has always dreamed of finding himself a beautiful patch of woodland. He wants to roll up his sleeves and build a place of his own, a little bolthole in which to escape from the madness of the modern world. McCloud will spend a year doing it, and filming it for our pleasure. But here’s the rub: he is going to build it with his own hands. There is only one rule: everything in the cabin has to come from the surrounding woodland and, if it doesn’t, it has to be made from someone else’s rubbish. Yes, he’s going to recycle and re-purpose himself a magnificent retreat. Bully for him. I can’t help thinking this would have been much more enjoyable, though probably not so dramatic, if he had just allocated a budget and built the thing with the latest mod cons. But even with his green recycling cap flapping loudly in the breeze, McCloud is terrifically watchable.
Great Ormond Street
Sunday, 8.30pm, ABC2 This won’t be to everybody’s taste because it’s reality TV with true emphasis on the real. Each episode visits a different department in the Great Ormond Street Hospital. Located in the Bloomsbury district of central London, the facility specialises in the care of children. Unlike many hospital-based programs that seek to sensationalise the goings-on, there is a quiet dignity about Great Ormond Street that completely bypasses ratings fodder such as the various versions of the One Born Every Minute franchise. In A Difficult Line, the debut of the six-episode second season, we go to the oncology ward to follow the plight of children with some of the rarest and most complex cancers imaginable. Parents are in a kind of sustained emotional agony and doctors face challenging ethical decisions. ‘‘ It’s so understandable that you are going to do everything in your power to hunt down the last chance of cure,’’ says an oncologist. ‘‘ But where that becomes a futile exercise is a difficult call, a difficult line.’’
Tuesday, 8.30pm, SBS One On this forum discussion program this week, host Jenny Brockie conducts a disarmingly frank discussion about female circumcision. The two main speakers who share the stage with Brockie have had different versions of the procedure. Uba, a Somalia-born woman, went through it like all the other girls she knew, at age six. Fuambai, an anthropologist who grew up in the US, decided to return home to Sierra Leone to undergo the procedure voluntarily so she could better identify with the women in her family. The prevalence of female circumcision in Sierra Leone is estimated to be above 94 per cent. In Somalia it is estimated to be more than 98 per cent. Unlike the large, mostly spectator-filled and occasionally disruptive Q& A audience, the members of this forum are carefully chosen because of their skills, experience and point of view. A delicate subject masterfully handled with stories and opinions that may surprise you from women who have endured the operation. Because Insight is prerecorded, you can join the Twitter conversation with the participants as the program goes to air.
Wednesday, 8.40pm, 7Two She is a terrific sport, Brenda Blethyn. As if it weren’t enough to take on the role of lumpy middle-aged Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope, here Blethyn gets down to a sensible one-piece in a public swimming pool. This is where we catch up with Vera in the second episode of her second season, flailing, failing and swallowing half the pool while clutching a paddle board with white knuckles. Meanwhile, experienced swimmers glide through the water with the self-possession and effortless traction of whales. We are here as a kind of counterpoint to a murder that is happening at the same time in a beautiful river system nearby. There, a fit-looking blonde executes a beautiful dive into a natural pool. You just know something is going to happen to her but you don’t know what. Will she strike her head on a submerged rock? Will she double up with cramp and inadvertently drown? Well, since Vera’s main job is murder investigation, you can expect something more sinister. This series carries many of the hallmarks of traditional English police procedurals, but the feminine angle, the working-class mother thing (Sergeant Joe Ashworth, played by David Leon, is her righthand man and surrogate son) and a certain determination to not be glamorous make the program different enough to feel fresh.
Mr and Mrs Murder
Wednesday, 8.30pm, Ten Well, this is certainly new for Shaun Micallef. While we are used to the self-basting satire that oozes from him as he mans a faux news desk in programs such as Newstopia and Mad as Hell, here he plays brilliant if eccentric cleaner Charlie Buchanan, one-half of a dynamic duo of amateur sleuths. His wife, Nicola, is played by the wonderful Kat Stewart, last seen as boisterous Billie Proudman in Offspring. The conceit is that the pair are industrial cleaners who specialise in murder scenes. But of course being so close to the action they quickly become detectives. The noir feel owes a bit to the HBO comedy Bored to Death, but the show harks back further to the likes of Murder She Wrote (Nicola is a great fan of crime fiction) and various husband-and-wife detective outings, from The Thin Man films to McMillan & Wife with Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James. Micallef and Stewart play it relatively straight but there’s still plenty of room for the wacky humour Micallef’s fans so appreciate. There is no stopping him when he needs to impersonate a German psychiatrist or indulge in his penchant for physical comedy. It’s like a mad Australian version of Elementary, the update of Sherlock Holmes also showing on Ten.
Jerusalem on a Plate
Thursday, 8.30pm, SBS One Founded more than 3,000 years ago, and repeatedly invaded and conquered, Jerusalem has always been a city of immigrants. This is where Muslim, Christian and Jewish cultures collide. According to host Yotam Ottolenghi, the food of Jerusalem is a perfect expression of this mishmash of cultures. Ottolenghi left Jerusalem 20 years ago and now re-creates its food in his eponymous London restaurant. But for this series he has come back to the city. There is a food revolution going on and he needs to know where it is coming from. He also wants to know how people are cooking and hopes to brush up his palate and seek fresh inspiration for the restaurant back home. From street food (hummus, falafel, breads) to the cutting edge of modern Middle Eastern cuisine, no culinary stone is left unturned by this gentle man, a natural broadcaster and a total foodie. Well put together, immersive and with exotic food you can almost taste.
The Christchurch Earthquake: When a City Falls
Friday, 8.30pm, SBS One The devastation of Christchurch, in New Zealand’s south island, began in September 2010. The region experienced a 7.1-magnitude earthquake that miraculously passed without a single fatality. But it was a different story in February 2011, when a 6.5-magnitude quake struck with its epicentre virtually underneath Lyttelton, the city’s port. Massive destruction ensued, with buildings already weakened from the September quake virtually exploding and 185 lives lost. Amateur vision here of the quakes and aftershocks, of people running injured from falling buildings to gather in the streets as the earth moves beneath them is affecting and frightening. Ultimately this is the story of how natural events turned one of the prettiest cities in the world into a war zone.