Pick of the week

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

The Spoils of Baby­lon,

Thurs­day, 9.30pm, ABC2 Hear­ken back to the 1980s, be­fore ca­ble, on­de­mand and binge watch­ing, to a sim­pler time, when the minis­eries reigned over the small screen. The Thorn Birds, Shogun — they al­most al­ways starred Richard Cham­ber­lain — these were gen­uinely ex­cit­ing events on the TV cal­en­dar. This six-episode se­ries is an af­fec­tion­ate spoof of the for­mat and the era, and fol­lows the rise of the fic­tional More­house oil dy­nasty of Texas. Eric Jon­rosh (played by Will Fer­rell) is in­tro­duced as the au­thor of The Spoils of Baby­lon. Fer­rell’s cameos are truly his best work: from the pick-up artist in Wed­ding

Ross Kemp: Ex­treme World

Mon­day, 9.30pm, ABC2


Mon­day, 10.05pm, ABC2

Sea­son four of Port­landia continues apace, When “ex­treme” is in­cluded in a show’s ti­tle, of­ten it re­ally means loud or con­tent-lite. The third sea­son of Ross Kemp’s doc­u­men­tary se­ries, screen­ing on Mon­days, is the real deal. Kemp is check­ing out Rio de Janeiro ahead of the Soc­cer World Cup this year, and the Olympic Games in 2016. It is, he says, in the midst of a crack co­caine epi­demic. He vis­its fave­las (slums), open-air drug mar­kets and the so-called “crack lands”, where hordes of people sit in the streets day and night, seek­ing their very fleet­ing highs. Alarm­ingly, heav­ily preg­nant women and chil­dren wan­der around. But the sad­dest and most mem­o­rable scene is a mother step­ping through the hu­man de­bris to bring her junkie son a meal. It left Kemp in tears and, hon­estly, brought me pretty close. Crash­ers to his turn as The Ar­chi­tect from The Ma­trix at the MTV Movie Awards in 2003 (check it out on YouTube). Jon­rosh is a bloated has-been, sur­rounded by ob­so­lete film­mak­ing para­pher­na­lia, vainly in­tro­duc­ing “his mas­ter­piece”. An out­stand­ing cast has been as­sem­bled, with Tim Rob­bins as the fam­ily pa­tri­arch Jonas More­house, Kris­ten Wiig as his daugh­ter Cyn­thia, and Tobey Maguire as his adopted son Devon. This week’s episode charts the dy­nasty’s be­gin­nings in the hard­scrab­ble oil­fields of Texas. “God put me on earth for a rea­son, to ex­trap­o­late that oil,” says Jonas. Ex­pect more fa­mous faces in sub­se­quent episodes: Ha­ley Joel Os­ment, Carey Mul­li­gan, Jes­sica Alba, Michael Sheen, Val Kilmer and (ahem) the shah of Iran. Highly amus­ing.


awk­ward pro­logue show­ing how the treat­ment of women has sup­pos­edly changed over the years, but Rogers brings a won­der­ful feisty en­ergy to her role, and the scene when she dresses down her rich lover’s snobby fam­ily is the stuff of leg­end.

Aus­tralians have done well in su­per­hero roles. Sam Worthington starred in James Cameron’s Avatar, for a while the high­est-gross­ing film of all time, and Chris Hemsworth makes a splen­didly con­fi­dent Nordic war­rior in Kenneth Branagh’s

(Sun­day, 7.30pm, Ten). Ban­ished from his home planet by his fa­ther (Anthony Hop­kins) to live among hu­mans as a pun­ish­ment for his ar­ro­gance, Thor lands in a re­mote stretch of New Mex­ico to meet a beau­ti­ful young as­tro­physi­cist (Natalie Port­man), and nat­u­rally they fall in love. The ex­trater­res­trial se­quences have a true gothic grandeur, but it’s Hemsworth’s pic­ture. His weapon of choice is his magic ham­mer, the Mjollmir, which re­turns to him like a boomerang when­ever he throws it. As I say, this is one for Aussie au­di­ences. But for true block­buster fans, noth­ing beats Peter Jack­son’s


per­form­ing that vi­tal task for so­ci­ety of iden­ti­fy­ing and satiris­ing hip­sters. Here, Car­rie Brown­stein has to de­clare so­cial bankruptcy, un­able to meet her so­cial me­dia obli­ga­tions as and when they fall due. Pak­istan-born comic and Port­landia reg­u­lar Ku­mail Nan­jiani serves as her bankruptcy of­fi­cer. “What’s a li­brary? Is that like a big Kin­dle?” he asks. And for the first time we see ex­actly how her­itage toma­toes and kale be­came un­likely veg­etable suc­cess sto­ries. Steve Buscemi guest stars as the guy with the job of mak­ing cel­ery pop­u­lar, and bloody marys aren’t go­ing to cut it. His mis­sion takes on hues of the Michael Dou­glas film Indecent Pro­posal. If you (cor­rectly) think Fred Ar­misen is funny now, check out his 1998 guide to South by South­west — on again now in Austin, Texas — on YouTube. It launched his comic ca­reer.

Tues­day, 8.30pm, Ten The At­lantic mag­a­zine re­cently ran an ar­ti­cle with the head­line: “NCIS: TV’s Big­gest Drama Gets No Re­spect”. It claimed that the stu­pen­dously

King Kong

Never heard of “pu­rity balls”? You would not be alone. At a for­mal din­ner, young girls dressed in ball gowns pledge to their fa­thers to re­main pure in body and spirit un­til mar­riage. In re­turn, the fa­thers pledge to pro­tect their daugh­ters and help them keep their pledge. Jane Treays, a Bri­tish doc­u­men­tary film­maker, pre­sents the lead up to one such event in Colorado Springs in the US. The the­ory, they say, is that fa­thers are re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing their daugh­ters feel loved, beau­ti­ful and val­ued, to pre­vent them seek­ing af­fir­ma­tion in pre­mar­i­tal sex. The doc­u­men­tary is — for the most part — quite bal­anced. These fam­i­lies are ad­mirable for their com­mit­ment to their daugh­ters’ wel­fare, how­ever old-fash­ioned it may seem. Rather than sim­ply rail against Amer­ica’s hy­per-sex­u­alised cul­ture, they have cre­ated an af­fir­ma­tive rit­ual. Though it must be noted that the pu­rity ball move­ment has come in for a lot of crit­i­cism: for women’s vir­gin­ity be­ing treated like a male pos­ses­sion; for the guilt and shame when girls break their pledge; and the pre­sump­tion that het­ero­sex­ual mar­riage is the path for ev­ery­one. Treays puts her fin­ger on the scale when she disin­gen­u­ously asks a young black girl to name which of the Ten Com­mand­ments she has mis­tak­enly re­ferred to. Nonethe­less, it is thought-pro­vok­ing view­ing.

The Wrong Mans

Wed­nes­day, 10pm, ABC1 This is the sec­ond of a six-part BBC com­edy thriller, billed as be­ing about two friends who find them­selves in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong skills. Sam (Bri­tish Com­edy Award win­ner Mathew Bayn­ton) works for Berk­shire County Coun­cil. Phil (BAFTA and Tony award-win­ner James Cor­den) is a 31-year-old mail dis­tri­bu­tion as­sis­tant who lives with his mum. Last week they found them­selves caught in a deadly con­spir­acy when Sam an­swered an aban­doned mo­bile phone af­ter wit­ness­ing a car crash. This episode finds them tied up and fright­ened. Great pro­duc­tion val­ues and suf­fi­cient laughs. (Satur­day, 9pm, Seven)(Not VIC, Tas or SA), a spec­tac­u­lar re­work­ing of the leg­endary beautyand-the-beast story star­ring Jack Black and Naomi Watts, com­plete with won­drous spe­cial ef­fects, an abun­dance of preda­tory mon­sters and some thrilling ac­tion se­quences.

The Bri­tish di­rec­tor Anthony Asquith made two mem­o­rable films from plays by Ter­ence Rattigan, a mas­ter of the play­writ­ing craft and a doyen of the Bri­tish draw­ing-room theatre be­fore it was taken over by an­gry young men in the 50s. Both films in­spired re­makes.

The Brown­ing Ver­sion, with Michael Red­grave, was re­made with Al­bert Fin­ney;

(Sun­day, 10.30am, Gem)(Not WA), with Robert Donat, was re­made with Nigel Hawthorne.

All are worth see­ing, but Asquith’s 1948 film with Donat re­mains a clas­sic. It’s based on the true story of a boy ac­cused of steal­ing a fiveshilling postal or­der while serv­ing as a navy cadet; his fa­ther hires Bri­tain’s leading bar­ris­ter to de­fend his hon­our. Grand, lit­er­ate, old-fash­ioned en­ter­tain­ment, with im­pec­ca­ble per­for­mances.


The Winslow

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