free to air New Tricks Saturday, 7.30pm, ABC
The 12th and final season of New Tricks, premieres tonight. The tales of the Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad, made up of retired police officers of the Metropolitan Police Service, have been extremely popular, but the turnover of the original cast undoubtedly has taken a toll. It’s slightly juvenile, but I still laugh at the opening credits, It’s Alright sung by Dennis Waterman, who was memorably (and mercilessly) spoofed several years ago on Little Britain, for refusing to accept acting roles unless he could also “write the theme tune, and sing the theme tune”.
The Beautiful Lie
Sunday, 8.30pm, ABC
Don’t miss this wonderful Australian reimagining of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, surely one of the best things to land on free-to-air TV this year. (See Rosemary Neill’s interview with the show’s writer Alice Bell on Page 3.) The six-part series is described as a tale of love, family, fidelity, seduction, commitment, jealousy, envy, obligation and mad passion. The elevated quality of the production by John Edwards and Imogen Banks is unmistakeable: beautifully shot, attractively scored, with great attention and artistry lavished on every element. The casting of the Sarah Snook, who starred in last year’s
Predestination, is the icing on the cake. Here, she plays a retired tennis star who is tempted to stray from her perfect if boring husband (Rodger Corser) by her sister’s new fiance (Benedict Samuel). She is supported by a peerless cast of Australian actors: Celia Pacquola, Gina Riley, Dan Wyllie and Catherine McClements among others. A classical tale, in a production that speaks powerfully of contemporary Australian life.
Sunday, 8.30pm, Seven
Gun to my head (let’s say Jack Bauer’s), I’m not sure I could choose between Quantico and the new season of Homeland. The critics seem to like
Quantico more than audiences so far, but I found the casting of Priyanka Chopra, an Indian film actress, singer and former Miss World in the lead role as Alex Parrish, intriguing. The show flashes back and forth between the arrival of a group of recruits at the FBI’s base at Quantico for basic training and the aftermath of a terrorist attack on Grand Central Station, for which one of them is believed responsible. Parrish has been framed for the attack and goes on the run, much like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive (1994) or Angelina Jolie in Salt (2010), to find the evidence that will clear her name. Or did she do it?
Sunday, 8.40pm, Ten
I enjoyed the 2011 film Limitless, with Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Australia’s Abbie Cornish, about a struggling writer who discovers a neuro-enhancing drug and becomes a US senator. (I thought it was a subtle play on Barack Obama’s meteoric rise from nowhere to become a US senator and then President.) This TV series feels like a diluted version of the film, like someone cut the original drug with baby formula. Jake McDorman plays Brian Finch, a no-hoper musician and embarrassment to his family. Enter the miracle drug NZT and he goes from zero to hero, diagnosing his father’s life-threatening illness in one heartbeat, and joining the FBI in the next. Lots of the lines fall with a thud. His handler, played by Jennifer Carpenter ( Dexter), explains she is trying to help him because she wasn’t able to help her father before he died. (A T-shirt saying: Daddy issues plus saviour complex would have been less obvious.) Bradley Cooper has a cameo (sorry; no De Niro), where he explains the drug has allowed him access to memories of being in utero, something he thinks about in stressful situations. Puh-lease. And McDorman, who has the leading man good looks of a young Peter Krause, falls through the looking glass into this mentally enhanced world as if it were an entirely normal thing to happen. McDorman may go on to prosper on TV, but I don’t think this show will.
Monday, 9.30pm, Ten
No one can say that Homeland fails to move with the times. The past few years have seen a remarkable re-emergence of Germany as a leader in European affairs. From Greek debt crisis to the Syrian refugee crisis, Germany has been singularly consequential. So from DC to Pakistan and now Berlin, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) again manages to find herself where the action is. In this season, she has left the CIA and is working for a German philanthropic foundation, much to the chagrin of Saul (Mandy Patinkin). Australian actor Miranda Otto has joined the cast as Alison Carr, the Berlin chief of station. In this week’s episode, Carrie and her boyfriend Jonas (Alexander Fehling), revisit her past. Meanwhile, Quinn (Rupert Friend) continues stalking his prey.
American Horror Story: Hotel
Monday, 9.30pm, Eleven
I don’t tend to leave negative reviews of hotels on websites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, though I understand why people do. Part of it is to get it off your chest, and part of it is to help others make a better choice. In that spirit, herewith my verdict on Hotel, the fifth instalment of the American Horror Story franchise: they should have stopped after Coven, season three. The show continues to bleed its best talent, including Jessica Lange and Taissa Farmiga. (Evan Peters, who burned up the screen in X-Men: Days of Future Past, should have followed suit.) Joining the cast is Lady Gaga, to whom the show’s creators Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy have paid significant — perhaps excessive — homage in their other show, Glee. The first episode showed scenes of rape, drug use and group sex, all in aid of nothing more than cheap provocation. The hotel’s hallways are replete with spooky kids, a poor imitation of the twins from The Shining (“come play with us … forever”). Frankly, I prefer to remember the show for how good it was.
Thursday, 8.30pm, Nine
Sometimes I imagine myself as a fly on the wall when ideas are pitched to TV executives. But in this instance, my imagination is insufficient. What diagnosis of the shortcomings of ABC’s Q&A would suggest Mark Latham as a solution? Or identify Footy Show- style irreverence as the missing ingredient in our national discourse? Nothing even faintly illuminating resulted from the premiere episode. But if you’re curious, you may want to check it out soon.
Thursday, 9.30pm, 7mate
Throughout the history of television, there have been characters similar to Peter Griffin. From Fred Flintstone to Homer Simpson, the idea of a disastrous, overweight, failure at the head of the household has had perennial appeal. (Perhaps it’s reassuring to men, in a way that the perfect fathers from The Brady Bunch or Father Knows Best were not.) There is also something appealing about the sitcom format, with the status quo ante restored in a 22 minutes. In this week’s episode, Brian becomes overly submissive after biting Peter and being sent to obedience school and Chris discovers his new best friend, Neil Goldman, is only using him to get close to Meg.