quick bites

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Lyn­dall Crisp

Away from Coun­try Satur­day, 8.30pm, NITV

Back in 1995, Bren­dan Wil­liams showed great po­ten­tial as a rugby union full­back. He went on to rep­re­sent Aus­tralia at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Com­mon­wealth Games and in 2001 signed with then Su­per 12s side the Waratahs. But his ca­reer took a dive be­cause of drugs, al­co­hol and the death of his brother. That wasn’t the end of his story, though. As this in­spi­ra­tional pro­file shows, Wil­liams moved to Italy, res­ur­rected his ca­reer and once again be­came a star, play­ing cen­tre, full­back and wing for Benet­ton Tre­viso. He re­tired aged 37 in May. Here Wil­liams, who lives with his young fam­ily in Tre­viso, talks about his rocky past and bright fu­ture.

Ital­ian Amer­i­cans Sun­day, 10.25pm, SBS

There’s a fa­mil­iar ring to this doc­u­men­tary se­ries, which traces the ar­rival in Amer­ica of Ital­ian im­mi­grants. By the turn of the 20th cen­tury, more than four mil­lion peo­ple had landed with the hope of a pros­per­ous new life. They faced a for­eign cul­ture and were not ex­actly wel­comed with open arms. (Ring a bell?) This episode looks at the years 1930-45, when a sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of Ital­ian Amer­i­cans en­ters pol­i­tics, sport and en­ter­tain­ment. Fiorello LaGuardia be­comes mayor of New York (LaGuardia Air­port is named af­ter him) and Joe DiMag­gio be­comes a base­ball hero and mar­ries the all-Amer­i­can Mar­i­lyn Monroe. But with the out­break of war they are forced to choose which side they are on.

Drunk History Sun­day, 9pm, SBS Two

This se­ries is a bit weird but amus­ing, I guess. Three ac­tors nar­rate their warped ver­sion of fa­mous events in Amer­i­can history while sup­pos­edly four sheets to the wind. Then another three ac­tors play the part of the main char­ac­ter in each story. Are you still with me? In this episode, San Fran­cisco, Kris­ten Wiig plays kid­nap vic­tim Patty Hearst, Lisa Bonet is civil rights leader Mary Ellen Pleas­ant and Steve Lit­tle is the great Amer­i­can nov­el­ist Mark Twain.

Keat­ing Mon­day, 11.30pm, ABC

OK, it’s been around the block a few times, but this four-part se­ries is well worth watch­ing if you haven’t caught it be­fore. And it doesn’t hurt to catch it a sec­ond time if only for the quick wit of Paul Keat­ing, a snap­shot of po­lit­i­cal history, and to en­joy the work of Kerry O’Brien.

The First In­ter­view Tues­day, 4.25am, ABC

Another re­peat, but I missed it back in 2012. This is the world’s first media in­ter­view, shot in Paris in Au­gust 1886. The great pho­tog­ra­pher Felix Nadar in­ter­views the fa­mous sci­en­tist Michel Chevreul on his 100th birth­day. Us­ing 21stcen­tury tech­nol­ogy, their lively con­ver­sa­tion — recorded in short­hand and a se­quence of still pho­to­graphs — has been turned into this won­der­ful 35-minute film.

Who Do You Think You Are? Tues­day, 7.30pm SBS

Even Greig Pick­haver has dif­fi­culty step­ping out of the role of HG Nel­son, one half of the com­edy duo Roy & HG. (Lots of peo­ple don’t re­alise HG is not a real per­son.) Here, Pick­haver ful­fils a need “to plough up a cou­ple of new pad­docks to try to work out the drama which has pre­ceded me and got [me] to this par­tic­u­lar point.” His fam­ily never dis­cussed their back­ground so it comes as a sur­prise to learn his great-grand­fa­ther, Sa­muel Rin­der, was a wealthy sheep trader who re­sorted to fraud when he fell on hard times. The “master crim­i­nal” went on the run, de­sert­ing his wife and seven chil­dren but, in­cred­i­bly, tak­ing his favourite race­horse with him. Then it gets re­ally in­ter­est­ing. This se­ries, now in its sev­enth sea­son, is fas­ci­nat­ing.

800 Words Tues­day, 8.40pm, Seven

One of the few new lo­cally pro­duced se­ries, this Aus­tralian eight-part drama is a goodie. Wi­d­ower Ge­orge Turner (Erik Thom­son) moves his teenage chil­dren Shay (Melina Vi­dler) and Arlo (Ben­son Jack An­thony) from Syd­ney to Weld in New Zealand to start a new life. A jour­nal­ist, he writes a daily 800-word col­umn for a Syd­ney pa­per. Un­for­tu­nately, here in episode one, he calls Weld a “dead-end town” in his first dis­patch, word gets back and the whole town turns against the fam­ily. But it’s a gen­tle com­edy that will make you smile.

Gruen Wed­nes­day, 8.30pm, ABC

Noth­ing es­capes host Wil An­der­son and ad­men Todd Samp­son and Rus­sel Howcroft when it comes to spin. They dis­sect the week’s lead­ing sto­ries — how they were pre­sented, in­ter­preted and re­ceived — and pull apart mar­ket­ing cam­paigns to re­veal how they tar­get con­sumers. It’s fast and funny and a ter­rific way of find­ing out how the ad in­dus­try works — from in­sid­ers. Back af­ter a year’s ab­sence (An­der­son was work­ing in the US in 2014), this is Gruen’s sev­enth sea­son.

Fresh Blood From Thurs­day, ABC iView

Veron­ica Mil­som and Steen Raskopou­los wrote

The Record, the first episode in this se­ries of short com­edy pilots de­signed to show­case up­com­ing young tal­ent. They also per­form the four main char­ac­ters. Frank and Pim Be­lami are an Ade­laide cou­ple with 69 boys. They want to beat the Rus­sian record for the world’s largest bi­o­log­i­cal fam­ily and won’t stop till they have a girl. In Lan­cashire, Eng­land, Bob and Judy Lum­ley want to break the speed record for a pi­geon re­turn­ing home, but their neigh­bour has other ideas. We’re sure to see more of these tal­ented peo­ple.

Gad­get Man Thurs­day, 8pm, SBS Two

Ac­tor Richard Ayoade presents this se­ries on gad­gets — from the so­phis­ti­cated to the sim­ple — that can make life eas­ier. In Nine to Five, episode two in sea­son four, he looks at gad­gets that can take the daily grind out of turn­ing up at work. While Ayoade checks out the gad­gets that make work­ing from home a cinch, co­me­dian Dara O’Bri­ain ex­plores the time, energy and safety ben­e­fits of such ac­ces­sories as the mo­bile tele­con­fer­enc­ing ro­bot, the ro­bot arm for use in dan­ger­ous work, and the zero-grav­ity work­sta­tion that al­lows you to work ly­ing down.

The Story of Film: An Odyssey Thurs­day, 12.05am, SBS Two

There have been sev­eral ex­cel­lent doc­u­men­taries on the history of film; this 15-part se­ries, one of the most com­pre­hen­sive, was shown on SBS in 2013. Although long (900 min­utes in to­tal), it’s a fas­ci­nat­ing over­view of the in­dus­try from silent movies to the dig­i­tal age. Episode six cov­ers the years 1953-57 when cin­ema was pro­duc­ing hits such as Rebel With­out a Cause, Seven Samu­rai and On the Wa­ter­front. Nar­rated by Ir­ish film critic Mark Cousins, the se­ries won a Pe­abody Award in 2013 “for its in­clu­sive, uniquely an­no­tated sur­vey of world cin­ema history”.

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