Television Lyndall Crisp on the week’s best viewing
free to air
Saturday, 8.30pm, ABC1 The ratings season kicks in on February 9, and not a minute too soon. Until then, more repeats. At least this soft police drama is easy on the eye. Based on books by Caroline Graham, the series launched in 1997. Tonight Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) looks into the case of a couple who tried to elope one night a year earlier. He disappeared and she’s just woken from a coma.
Escape to the Country
Sunday, 8.30pm, 7Two Given what you get for your money, idyllic country cottages in England aren’t so expensive. But the average price of a property in the Cotswolds is 45 per cent above the national average. And no wonder. Its 2000sq km boast handsome market towns, beautiful architecture and outstanding natural beauty. Financial expert Mark and chemical engineer Luciano want to escape their tiny urban flat for a big house with a big garden. Host Alistair Appleton sees what he can find them for £700,000 (in 2010).
Thelma & Louise
Sunday, 8.40pm, GEM What a cast. Geena Davis plays passive housewife Thelma, Susan Sarandon is headstrong waitress Louise, Brad Pitt is hitchhiker JD, and Harvey Keitel is Detective Hal Slocumb. The girls go on the run after Louise shoots dead a man trying to rape Thelma. They cross several states in Louise’s 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible in a wild standoff with police. Things go from bad to worse when JD steals their money and they have to rob a store. Finally cornered by FBI agents in the Grand Canyon, they make a desperate choice. Released in 1991, the film won an Academy Award for best original screenplay.
America in Primetime
Sunday, 10.15pm, SBS One This fascinating four-part series (yes, another repeat) tracks the evolution of American prime- time TV series. Using interviews with actors and writers and clips from shows going back 50 years, it looks at how themes and character archetypes changed in tandem with a changing society. Part two, The Crusader, examines the modern hero. Many are deeply flawed — think Dexter, Luther and Carrie in Homeland — yet their fight against evil seems to justify their unorthodox methods. Gone are the days when baddies were baddies and the good guys were usually clean-cut champions of the law.
Persons of Interest
Tuesday, 8.30pm, SBS One The material for this four-part documentary comes from old ASIO files. It shows how various people became the subject, rightly or wrongly, of surveillance by the security agency. This second episode looks at Michael Hyde, who 40-plus years ago was a radical undergraduate at Monash University. A Maoist and communist, he helped organise the anti-Vietnam War moratoriums in 1969-70. ASIO tracked his every movement between 1967 and 1974, collecting material that filled 13 files. ‘‘ It’s almost as though I had a personal research assistant following me around. I don’t think it’s all that bloody funny,’’ the author of the memoir All Along the Watchtower once told a reporter. Aboriginal activist Gary Foley and communist author Frank Hardy will feature on January 21 and 28.
Tuesday, 8.30pm, SBS Two This is the first episode of last year’s Canadian science-fiction series that’s won several awards and a huge fan base. Tatiana Maslany stars as several identical women (10 in all) who turn out to be clones of her. In Natural Selection, Sarah, a streetsmart meretrix, witnesses the suicide of a stranger who resembles her. Sarah assumes Beth’s identity and steals her savings and boyfriend. But Beth was caught up in a deadly conspiracy and Sarah becomes a target. In the second episode, Instinct, at 9.20pm, Sarah wants to dump Beth’s body but there’s an assassin on her tail. Wherever it has been aired, the series has ignited fresh debate on the ethics of cloning. Hostages
Wednesday, 8.30pm, Nine At last we discover how Washington DC surgeon Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) wriggles out of killing the US president while he’s on her operating table. For 15 agonising episodes, we’ve lived her dilemma. Her family is being held hostage by a team of no-gooders, each with their own motive; she swings between humouring and trying to outsmart them. Her family’s lives are at stake, a lot of people die along the way, but not the president (so far). In Endgame, the first lady confronts Ellen, who blurts out the assassination plot. There are a lot of ends to tie up in this finale, not least Ellen’s relationship with her two-timing husband, Brian. Here’s hoping she gives the dork the flick.
Wednesday, 9.30pm, SBS One Nothing would make me miss this brilliant political drama. And the good news is there’s a third (but, sadly, the last) series on its way. Last week, in the first of a two-parter, Danish PM Birgitte Nyborg offered to broker a peace deal between North and South Kharun in Africa. Here she navigates several political landmines and turns a potential disaster into a solution. But her daughter Laura descends into a black hole as her panic attacks take hold. A nightmare for her single mother.
Friday, 1.30pm, SBS One The fact that Kommissar Rex can outsmart crooks comes as no surprise. This lovable german shepherd has been sniffing them out and rounding them up since 1994, although in 2009 he relocated to Rome from Vienna. In Class Struggle, Rex is distracted from stealing his police colleagues’ lunches when a student’s body is found beneath her hotel bathroom window. At first it appears to be an accident, but Rex knows better. Using his consummate skills, he helps uncover the truth.
David Starkey’s Music and Monarchy
Friday, 8.35pm, SBS One Handel and Henry Purcell are just two of the composers whose works are performed in this magnificent program, which explores the link between monarchy and British music. In Revolutions, the second of the four-part series, Starkey, a constitutional historian, looks at how religious conflict threatened musicians and monarchs in the 17th century. He introduces the Westminster Abbey choir, which sings some of the music heard at early British coronations, and the Band of the Life Guard plays pieces Charles I used in battle. Starkey also explores how Puritans and Royalists fought over music, with the church organ proving a surprisingly bitter source of conflict.