quick bites

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Justin Burke

Hol­ly­wood’s Best Film Di­rec­tors Satur­day, 12.30am, Bio (133)

This se­ries — an old favourite — fea­tures Hol­ly­wood di­rec­tors talk­ing at length about their ca­reers, films, per­sonal styles and philoso­phies. The is noth­ing es­pe­cially fancy about the pre­sen­ta­tion: just the facts, ma’am. This week’s sub­ject is the late Wes Craven, of Scream and A Night­mare on Elm Street fame. “Hor­ror films don’t cre­ate fear,” he once said. “They re­lease it.” A fit­ting way to re­mem­ber his four-decade con­tri­bu­tion to the screen arts.

Fer­rell Takes the Field Sun­day, 8.30pm, Com­edy (121)

“They say there is noth­ing more Amer­i­can than grab­bing a hot dog, go­ing to the ball­park and watch­ing nine Do­mini­can guys make magic on the field,” says co­me­dian Will Fer­rell, ad­dress­ing a base­ball sta­dium full of fans. “They’re wrong: make that eight Do­mini­cans and one guy from Irvine, Cal­i­for­nia.” And in case you missed his mean­ing: “Ruth. Man­tle. Will Fer­rell.” What is this all about? Ear­lier this year, Fer­rell took to the field dur­ing Ma­jor League base­ball’s spring train­ing and played 10 dif­fer­ent po­si­tions for 10 dif­fer­ent teams; this show is the re­sult. (He also raised money for can­cer char­i­ties by auc­tion­ing his uni­forms and mem­o­ra­bilia.) Fer­rell’s hu­mour is some­times, if you’ll for­give the pun, hit and miss. But it is rare to see him — a suc­cess­ful comic ac­tor rather than co­me­dian — play­ing him­self, and I have a feel­ing it will be worth watch­ing.

Show Me a Hero Mon­day, 7.30pm, Show­case (115)

Os­car Isaac is one of those young ac­tors who you just know is des­tined to win (ahem) an Os­car. In the Coen Broth­ers’ film In­side Llewyn Davis, he de­liv­ered a sublime per­for­mance as the ti­tle char­ac­ter, a folk mu­si­cian. More re­cent roles in Ex Machina and A Most Vi­o­lent Year have brought him to the at­ten­tion of big­ger au­di­ences; and Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awak­ens seems des­tined to make the 36-year-old Gu­atemalan­born ac­tor a big star. Won­der­ful, then, that he was se­cured as the star of this David Si­mon ( The Wire, Treme, Homi­cide: Life on the Street) minis­eries. Set be­tween 1987 and 1994, and based on a book by for­mer New York Times writer Lisa Belkin, Show Me a Hero tells the story of a white mid­dle-class neigh­bour­hood in Yonkers, New York, which is re­sist­ing a fed­er­ally man­dated public hous­ing de­vel­op­ment. Isaac plays Nick Wa­sic­sko, the newly elected mayor of Yonkers, with some­thing of the naivete of The Wire’s Tommy Carcetti — you know the sys­tem will chew him up. The out­stand­ing cast also in­cludes Jim Belushi, Al­fred Molina, Wi­nona Ry­der and Cather­ine Keener. Don’t miss it.

Fear the Walk­ing Dead Mon­day, 8.30pm, FX (119)

Three episodes into The Walk­ing Dead spin-off and sev­eral of my ques­tions about the wis­dom of the ex­er­cise have been an­swered. Are fans, who are al­ready be­ing treated to bi­fur­cated sea­sons of the orig­i­nal in Oc­to­ber and Fe­bru­ary, ac­tu­ally hun­gry for more? The an­swer seems to be: yes. With the orig­i­nal still on­go­ing, is it dif­fer­en­ti­ated and nec­es­sary? A qual­i­fied yes. Fear pre­cedes the orig­i­nal, and is set dur­ing the orig­i­nal zom­bie out­break, while Rick Grimes is still slum­ber­ing in a coma in a hos­pi­tal bed. Episodes so far have shown a hy­per-real dis­in­te­gra­tion of civil­i­sa­tion in Los An­ge­les. Has it shed any light on what started the zom­bie apoca­lypse? No, but who re­ally ex­pected them to give the game away? Our pro­tag­o­nists are a blended fam­ily, in­clud­ing Frank Dil­lane (son of Game of Thrones’ Stephen Dil­lane) who plays Nick, a drug-ad­dicted young man and young Aus­tralian ac­tor Aly­cia Deb­nam-Carey as his sis­ter Alicia. Af­ter a week on hia­tus, episode three sees Travis (New Zealan­der Cliff Curtis), his ex-wife Liza (El­iz­a­beth Ro­driguez) and son Chris (Lorenzo James Hen­rie) seek refuge with a Latino fam­ily af­ter the riot; mean­while his part­ner Madi­son (Kim Dick­ens) de­fends the fam­ily home. (The Walk­ing Dead sea­son six pre­mieres on Oc­to­ber 12.)

In­side the Na­tional Trust Tues­day, 1.30pm, History (611)

Ow­ing at least a lit­tle to peo­ple lik­ing a stick­y­beak, BBC broad­caster and jour­nal­ist Michael Buerk re­turns with a sec­ond sea­son of this se­ries, which goes be­hind the closed doors of Bri­tain’s most stately man­sions, cas­tles, and gar­dens. Per­haps most in­ter­est­ing — if the first sea­son is any in­di­ca­tion — are the peo­ple who work be­hind the scenes to care for these homes and safe­guard Bri­tain’s her­itage.

Ballers Tues­day, 7.30pm, Show­case (115)

All things be­ing equal, I would nor­mally gauge the lo­cal lev­els of in­ter­est for a se­ries about Amer­i­can football as low. But with the stun­ning suc­cess of Jar­ryd Hayne, the for­mer rugby league player who re­cently made the fi­nal ros­ter for the San Fran­cisco 49ers, the new HBO se­ries Ballers couldn’t have pre­miered here at a bet­ter time. Set in Mi­ami, Florida, it ex­plores the over-thetop world of past and present pro­fes­sional football play­ers. It stars Dwayne “The Rock” John­son as Spencer Strasmore, a re­tired football star try­ing to es­tab­lish him­self as a fi­nan­cial man­ager to cur­rent play­ers. Not re­ally a fan of The Rock’s pre­vi­ous work ( Fast and Fu­ri­ous, Her­cules, or pro­fes­sional wrestling), I was nonethe­less in­trigued by his per­for­mance in the first few episodes. His char­ac­ter is like a 117kg Shel­ley Levene ... watch it and you’ll see what I mean.

Texas Ris­ing Wed­nes­day, 7.30pm, FX (119)

With so many fan­tas­tic scripted dra­mas around, you’d think a magic for­mula had been dis­cov­ered. But even those re­spon­si­ble for some of the best shows — such as the History Chan­nel, which made Hat­fields & McCoys — are ca­pa­ble of mak­ing a dud. Texas Ris­ing has a great topic: the Texas revo­lu­tion against Mexico and the birth of the Texas Rangers. It has a strong cast, in­clud­ing Bill Pax­ton ( Big Love) as Gen­eral Sam Hous­ton, Ray Liotta, Bren­dan Fraser and Olivier Martinez as Gen­eral Santa Anna. It even looks great. But the di­a­logue is leaden; the mu­sic, corny; and the ac­tion, plain old dread­ful. From this week’s episode for ex­am­ple: “Ephraim, can I call you by your Chris­tian name?” “You can call me any­thing you like, just don’t call me late for supper.” (Not clear if we are sup­posed to laugh.) It also fea­tures an am­bush with rat­tlesnakes be­ing dropped from bas­kets hid­den in trees (pos­si­bly inspired by the myth­i­cal Aus­tralian drop bear); swords that, rather than be­ing shoved through an op­po­nent’s chest, are merely wedged in armpits; and short­cuts, such as a cannon that sup­pos­edly de­stroys a con­voy of Mex­i­can sol­diers — but the shot merely shows the Tex­ans giv­ing a whoop and hooray. This week, Hous­ton, who has been avoid­ing bat­tle, de­cides to make a stand.

Screen Fri­day, 7.30pm, Fox­tel Arts (132)

If you like strongly voiced opin­ions about film and TV, check out Re­view’s Graeme Blun­dell and Mar­garet Pomer­anz on Screen. This week, they speak with Shane Ja­cob­sen about his new film, Odd­ball, and with Noni Ha­zle­hurst on the im­mi­nent res­ur­rec­tion of A Place to Call Home on pay-TV; and they preview the new BBC First cop drama Baby­lon, pro­duced by Danny Boyle ( Trainspot­ting) and star­ring James Nes­bitt.

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