FREE TO AIR
Saturday, 8.30pm, ABC1 Have you ever wondered how a defence barrister, who knows his client is guilty, sleeps at night? This two-parter from the pen of Anthony Horowitz ( Foyle’s War), starring James Purefoy ( The Following, Revenge), investigates a complex situation that evolves from that dilemma. Purefoy plays edgy barrister Will Travers. When we meet him, Will is recovering from a nervous breakdown in a sleepy backwater in rural Suffolk following a sensational murder trial in London. Slowly we piece together the puzzle of what has happened to him, even as a new murder trial beckons. But why does that car keep exploding? Who is the bearded guy at the station? Who is the dead man, his face crawling with flies, in Will’s dreams? Fine performances by a great cast and taut writing in the psychological thriller vein invite and reward attention.
Sunday, 6.30pm, Ten Is there nothing Lisa McCune can’t do? After wowing them around the country in hundreds of performances of South Pacific, and with a new role in Eddie Perfect’s revamped Shane Warne: The Musical coming up, McCune stars in this tropical family medical drama as feisty Hope Island doctor Sam Stewart. Sam takes no, er, bull from anyone as she safeguards the wellbeing of residents as well as those pesky holiday-makers and thrill-seekers on Hope and neighbouring Great Barrier Reef islands. We first meet Sam as she is barking directions and hanging off the side of a fishing boat trawling for a deadly sea snake. Her secret passion is venom. There are many echoes of old roles in Reef Doctors for McCune, particularly those in Blue Heelers and Sea Patrol. Still, I fully expected her to sing I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair in the curiously familiar deck shower scene early in this debut episode.
The Observer Effect
Sunday, 8.30pm, SBS One This new prime-time outing from SBS is not strictly news and current affairs, though with respected journalist Ellen Fanning at the helm and senator Barnaby Joyce as last week’s long interview subject it certainly felt like it. The aim of the program is for viewers to see what effect news has on the nation’s powerbrokers and celebrities. Unfortunately last week it was pretty much Barnaby as usual, with Fanning coming across as Leigh Sales lite. With the uncertain direction of the questions, a studio audience so small it lacks the courage to respond, and the absence of any announcement of the following week’s primary guest (SBS later confirmed Foreign Minister Bob Carr), I felt like a passenger in a plane who suddenly discovers the design of the wings hasn’t been finalised. Never mind, chump — we’re flying. The Observer Effect has great potential. It’s just a pity the program wasn’t better developed before it aired.
The Graham Norton Show
Sunday, 9.30pm, Ten I thought my old mate Graham Norton might have been given the flick from Ten, but no, the network was just playing hide and seek with the program for a couple of weeks because it can. So we’re no longer on the cutting edge, and there’s no longer any point in following the @grahnort Twitter account, but hey, at least it’s still on. Just as he did in his debut appearance, Will Smith lights up the room. Son Jaden is also on the couch along with Hangover III stars Bradley Cooper and Heather Graham. Then there’s Michael Douglas with a clip from his new Liberace movie Behind the Candelabra. Ten still has it wrong, in my view. The Graham Norton Show has always been a Saturday night affair. Who wants to party with Will Smith and go to work the next morning?
Sunday, 9.30pm, Seven Relax. Though it is historical, this is not about James Cook’s famous tub. Instead, set in 1965, it is a prequel of sorts to the Inspector Morse series. But wait, I hear you say, isn’t that what Lewis is? Well, technically Lewis (also shown on Seven) is an Inspector Morse spin-off, though both were created and written by Morse writer Russell Lewis. Now, where were we? Ah, yes: 1965. Detective Constable Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans, Silk ) is returning to Oxford to investigate the disappearance of a schoolgirl. Since the series concerns itself with the origins of the famous inspector who likes crosswords, classical music, beer and cars — not necessarily in that order — this case is formative, and will shape and define his character at least as much as beer, cheese and the westerly breeze. Just when he had his letter of resignation from the police all laboriously typed out, too. But of course we weren’t going to fall for that. How else could Inspector Morse have come to be?
Toughest Place to Be a . . . Firefighter
Wednesday, 8.30pm, SBS One These great little three-part documentary series — about individuals going somewhere else in the world to do the job they do every day at home — whiz by in the blink of an eye. I suppose we are all used to documentary series that go on forever. In this case having just three episodes means all the stops are pulled out to get the whole story. Nothing feels rushed or especially contrived. So come along for the ride in this debut episode of season four in which a firefighter leaves his crew in Sussex to fight fires in the Amazon. As usual, we see him at work in the environment he knows best before waving goodbye to his lovely wife and son and heading off to places unknown, in this case the jungles of Brazil. In recent decades the area has been decimated by logging and land clearing. Now the main threat is wildfires. Can our man get to know the locals and inspire them with his educated ways? Can he learn from them? Or will he collapse, exhausted and alienated?
Fantasy Homes by the Sea
Wednesday, 9.30pm, 7Two Some lifestyle programs about sea and tree change confine themselves to the country of origin. One of the great things about Catherine’s Gee’s 2006 series Fantasy Homes by the Sea, apart from its age, is that she relocates Brits with itchy feet to all points of the compass. If there’s an ocean nearby, Gee is there. Tonight she helps a mother and daughter run away to the Algarve, a massive coastal region in Portugal. According to Gee, an incredible 200,000 Poms head to Portugal to take up residence each year. Now hear this: the family wants a three-bedroom home by the sea with a swimming pool, on a budget of £230,000 (about $362,000). Unreasonable? Not at all. This program could easily put Portugal on your bucket list. It’s now very definitely on mine. The killer distraction is the program’s traditional millionaire’s moment. The family views a property worth more than 30 times its budget for the hell of it, knowing they’ve got Buckley’s.
Little Paris Kitchen
Thursday, 8pm, SBS One Yes, I wrote about the tiny Paris kitchen of English-born chef and food writer Rachel Khoo on the debut of this program a few weeks ago. But, like her food, Little Paris Kitchen is irresistible. As you may recall, Khoo opened the smallest restaurant in Paris in her tiny Belleville flat, where, with just two tables, she wowed the notoriously fussy French food critics and anyone lucky enough to score a booking. In this fourth episode, Khoo tells us her recipes are inspired not by Michelinstarred restaurants but by the bistros of Paris. Naturally, we must visit a few. Then it’s home to the flat for a winter salad of fresh vegetables with a goat’s cheese mousse. Easy-peasy. But next up is a highly specialised chicken from the Landes region with an unusual ingredient: lavender. It’s traditional and known in France as poulet a la lavande. Now you won’t see that on MasterChef.
Dirty Laundry Live
Thursday, 9.30pm, ABC2 Lawrence Mooney is like a quirky car. As soon as you start to notice him he turns up absolutely everywhere. There he was, with his sparkling blue eyes, beard and sweaters, like a mature knitting pattern model, confessing all in Agony Uncles. Then he turned up in the new women’s prison drama Wentworth as a teacher who smuggled drugs into the prison for an addict before the governor found out and gave him the heave-ho. Now he has his own show, a daring, gossipy, frequently politically incorrect panel outing called Dirty Laundry Live. Last week it was all fat jokes, empty bongs and sweepstakes for the royal baby. But there is always a basis in the gossip rags for these odd-seeming conversation topics. Oh, and there’s a sort of half-hearted quiz to keep some kind of structure, but most of the fun is in watching it all fall apart with no chance of an edit or even a bleep button. Good one, Moon-man.