quick bites

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Justin Burke

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.

Quantico

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?

Lim­it­less

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.

Home­land

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.

The Ver­dict

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.

Fam­ily Guy

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.

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