FREE TO AIR
Death in Paradise
Saturday, 7.30pm, ABC1 A second series begins for uptight, squinting, cynical and sardonic English detective Richard Poole (Ben Miller, The Armstrong and Miller Show, The Worst Week of My Life) and the crew on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint-Marie. The offbeat police procedural, filmed on Guadeloupe, derives its humour from the contrast between Poole’s repressed and obsessive nature and the laidback Caribbean way of life. Though in this series he remains the Englishman abroad, hopping about on the sand in his suit and tie, there are small traces in him of a more relaxed way of being. In this episode, a plantation manager is found dead with a giant blade in his back. Coincidentally, a nervous English couple, clearly up to something, turn up late for lunch. Death in Paradise is still, to some extent, Sherlock Holmes in the Caribbean without the elegance and wit. It’s a good job it’s gorgeous to look at. Despite all the deaths, it must be doing wonders for Caribbean tourism.
The Block: Sky High
Sunday, 6.30pm, Nine Five teams from five states renovate a former hotel. As always, tough Nine handyman Scott Cam is on hand to co-ordinate and giggle at the contestants’ misfortunes. ‘‘ Australia’s toughest renovation program just got a whole lot tougher,’’ he says. By press time Nine hadn’t bothered to put the first episode on its media preview site, so all I can tell you is that it promises to be ‘‘ the dirtiest game of all time’’. And you thought Revenge was tough? Nobody expects renovation programs to be clean and tidy, but do we really need tears by the bucket load?
Sunday, 9.30pm, ABC1 Oh, you didn’t know Parky, now 78, is back from his retirement? Indeed he is, and in this fifth episode of his new series, the ‘‘ master’’ (I presume that’s what the title is all about) chats with Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang. There are no facts readers of Review won’t already be across, following our feature in December from Tim Teeman of The Times. Still, it is great to see the pianist telling his own remarkable story, including his father’s horrifying exhortation to him to commit suicide with pills when Lang was just nine. Parky manages to keep it together without boring us or overwhelming his guest.
Monday, 9pm, Seven Beautifully shot and set in New York’s Hamptons among the rich, the nasty and the deeply vengeful, the second season of Revenge is barely clearing the million viewer mark each week in five-city metropolitan ratings figures. That’s good enough to keep it on air, but it does represent a decline. I can remember when, during the first season, everyone seemed to be watching it and it was the first thing hairdressers and doctor’s receptionists asked me about. These days it’s a struggle to find anyone who gives a toss. The premise — a woman on a quest to destroy a rich family to avenge her father’s death at their hands — has been stretched so far it feels as limp as a spent rubber band. Though its talisman has always been the infinity symbol, Revenge has more twists and turns than a double helix. Central character Amanda (Emily VanCamp) now has a black foster brother who has been inserted into her childhood flashbacks with a crowbar. Like all the others, including her childhood sweetheart Jack (Nick Wechsler), he doesn’t recognise her. Do people really change beyond recognition in 14 years?
Monday, 10pm, Seven Good heavens, Grey’s Anatomy is still on? Who knew? Last week it was watched by just 271,000 people. I’m sure those who still watch Grey’s are gratified by Seven’s rather kindly retention of it on air. I heartily commend the network’s consideration of long-term fans. So what’s going on these days at Seattle Grace? Surprisingly, many of the old faces familiar from long ago 2005 when the series began — and quickly became the talk of the town — are still there. There’s central character Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), who was clinically dead for an unthinkable amount of time in seasons gone by before being revived and going back to work completely unscathed about a week later. And this is a medical show? And there’s old McDreamy himself, Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), put there to make hearts flutter, still being sexily surgical. Bossy Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) is still bossy, and Sandra Oh is still wafting about as Cristina Yang. Surely they will all soon qualify for medical pension plans. In this episode, too many organ transplants have them on the hop. At the same time, the hospital faces a transplant of administration. The metaphors!
Wednesday, 7.35pm, SBS One Jimmy Doherty is a familiar face from British lifestyle programs ( Jimmy’s Farm, Jimmy’s Food Factory ). For the four-part Jimmy’s Forest, the affable Englishman spent an entire year in an 81ha Norfolk woodland. It has loads of wildlife, including badgers and breeding deer, a stream, a lake and, at the heart of it all, Jimmy’s treehouse base, perched between two majestic oaks, with its own laboratory and rough quarters. Without saying as much, Doherty is a bit like Henry David Thoreau. Like the philosopher in his seminal opus Walden, Doherty goes to the woods to live deliberately, as much to find out about himself as to study the environment around him. Season by season during the course of the year, Doherty follows the ebb and flow of life in the forest, beginning with this debut episode, Spring. There’s a little bit of science in the lab, a bit of armchair philosophy, a touch of man in the wild and quite a lot of stunning vision of an English forest in spring.
Law & Order: SVU
Thursday, 8.30pm, Ten Legitimate Rape is a strong, engaging episode of the Law & Order Special Victims Unit franchise. A female television sports reporter is being creepily stalked by a cameraman she works with almost everyday. She claims he raped her in her hotel room six weeks before she first presented to the SVU. The plot thickens when it turns out the reporter is having an affair with a married sports anchor on the network. Why did she wait so long to come forward? Why didn’t she mention the affair with the anchor until well after the team was on the case? Looks like it’s time to bring the cameraman off the set and into the pen, but is he really the one who has been installing cameras and sending lurid photos and videos to these compromised TV people? Only the next 42 minutes will tell.
Thursday, 8.45pm, Seven In which various celebrities get into swimwear and throw themselves off diving boards into pools. On debut a fortnight ago, the program, hosted by Larry Emdur and Kylie Gillies of The Morning Show, drew an entirely respectable 1.3 million metropolitan viewers. Up against Nine’s blockbuster talent quest The Voice, that was a valiant effort. That’s also what we have to say about some of the less athletic contestants, such as Melbourne radio host and comedian Adam Richard, who deserved all the courage points he got for getting his kit off and throwing himself into the competition — and the pool — with gusto and a certain Kylie-ish flair. Must have been the gold lame hot pants. While the format is sort of The Voice in the pool, with mentors, judges who are professional divers (Greg Louganis and local boy Matthew Mitcham) and pre-dive chats with nervous contestants, it does all seem a bit pointless. And once the perve factor has worn off there isn’t that much to bring you back. Perhaps that’s why this hastily reshuffled two-hour extravaganza ends it.
Thursday, 9.10pm, Seven I’m not entirely sure what to make of Citizen Khan. While the idea of a sitcom about a family of Pakistani Muslims living in Birmingham is daring, the jokes are as old and predictable as the hills. Though he is nowhere near as bigoted, daffy lead character Mr Khan (Adil Ray) reminds me more of Alf Garnett in Till Death Us Do Part than any kind of modern Muslim comic incarnation. The program has been controversial, with some British Muslims affronted by its jokes at the expense of their faith, and others claiming these critics should lighten up and stop being so defensive about themselves and their culture. I suppose I feel underqualified to comment on the issues of faith and subsequent offensiveness. I can tell you, though, that some of the jokes here, especially those concerning the young adult daughters in the Khan family, wouldn’t be out of place in Man About the House. The selfsatirising South Asian thing was done so much better in The Kumars at No 42.