free to air Quantico Sunday, 8.30pm, Seven
Over on pay TV, it’s normal for whole seasons to get commissioned, then written, shot and produced at the same time. Back here in network TV, it’s still de rigueur to produce a pilot, then shoot a few episodes and let the ratings determine whether a full season is deserved. Happily, Quantico has just received a full season pick-up from ABC in the US (so has NBC’s
Blindspot, see below). The multi-layered thriller, starring Indian film actress, singer and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra as FBI agent Alex Parrish, is full of twists and turns, secrets and hidden agendas. Flashing back to basic training at the FBI’s base at Quantico, and forward to a terrorist attack on New York’s Grand Central Terminal, no clear picture has yet emerged whether Parrish is the culprit. I’m riveted.
The Other Pompeii: Life & Death in Herculaneum
Sunday, 7.35pm, SBS
Romanophiles will enjoy Andrew WallaceHadrill’s documentary on what life was like in the small Roman town of Herculaneum — only 16km from Pompeii — moments before it was destroyed by the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius of AD79. The Cambridge University professor reveals new skeletons — the first to be found in the area for 30 years — which include a toddler clutching his pet dog, a two-year-old girl with silver earrings, and a boy staring into the eyes of his mother as they embraced in their final moments. Nearly all the remains found inside the newly discovered vaults were women and children, while those found outside on the shoreline were nearly all men. This documentary has a surprising explanation why.
The Beautiful Lie
Sunday, 8.30pm, ABC
If you missed last week’s premiere of this outstanding Australian-set reimagining of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, do yourself a favour and catch up online with ABC iView. Here, in part two of six, Anna (Sarah Snook) can’t get Skeet (Benedict Samuel) off her mind; Kitty (Sophie Lowe) is sent away; Dolly (Celia Pacquola) takes pleasure in punishing her unfaithful husband Kingsley (Daniel Henshall); and Anna’s husband Xander (Rodger Corser) is crushed when Anna’s affair becomes very public. Stylish and evocative, it’s a must watch.
Dogs — Their Secret Lives
Monday, 7.35pm, SBS
Fat dogs: according to Mark Evans, former chief veterinarian at Britain’s RSPCA, it’s a serious problem, though I defy anyone not to chuckle at footage of chubby pugs and sausage dogs that look ready to split. In the first instance, Evans sets up multiple surveillance cameras to find out why a particular pup is getting so overweight. It turns out that Nanna, who has denied feeding him treats, but according to her family is likely senile, has been doing so nonstop. The pup also has trained his owner’s staff to play catch with pork scratchings. The canine’s name? Chancer. Figures.
Monday, 9.30pm, Ten
Usually leaving Easter eggs (a hidden joke or revelation) in a TV show is the prerogative of the showrunner. But there was a minor kerfuffle last week when it was discovered that Arabic graffiti in the background of a scene of Homeland, added for authenticity by street artists, actually said: “Homeland is racist”, that the show is “a joke” and a “watermelon”. (The last one apparently connotes phoniness.) I’m with Stephen Colbert on the charge of the show being racist: “It might not accurately portray Muslims — but that doesn’t make it racist because the show doesn’t accurately portray anything,” he said. (Lots of people disagree, but it’s that kind of show.) These aren’t the show’s only coded messages — the upcoming episode descriptions are incredibly cryptic. In last week’s episode, “Jonas and Carrie revisit her past” was actually Carrie (Claire Danes) going off her medication, snorting crushed caffeine pills, drinking a bottle of vodka, having sex and talking to the ghosts of her victims while she and Jonas tried to discern who was trying to kill her. “Meanwhile, Quinn stalks his prey” was the extraordinary development that Quinn (Rupert Friend) was actually pursuing Carrie. Other highlights included Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) planning regime change in Syria, and Saul’s new relationship with Miranda Otto’s character, Allison Carr. In this week’s no doubt understated description: “Answers elude Carrie. Meanwhile, Saul and Allison run an operation.” Can’t wait.
Wednesday, 8.30pm, Seven
This workmanlike thriller starring Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton ( Animal Kingdom, 300: Rise of
an Empire, Strike Back) as FBI agent Kurt Weller, does just enough to keep you on the hook. Indeed, the opening scenes, which feature a naked Jane Doe (Jaimie Alexander, Thor) emerging from an abandoned duffel bag in New York’s Times Square, in front of the most amazed bomb disposal officer of all time, are impressive. Jane is also covered in tattoos, each of which represents clues and which no doubt will propel the narrative week to week. Unfortunately, her memory has been chemically wiped, but it is apparent she has had military training at the very least. It also stars TV veteran Marianne JeanBaptiste ( Broadchurch, Without a Trace).
Wednesday, 9.10pm, ABC
If you like the comedy stylings of Shaun Micallef, you’ll most probably love this show. He plays fictional former prime minister Andrew Dugdale, now retired and suffering relevance deprivation in a house full of fools. In a concept remarkably similar to the animated comedy Bojack Horseman (Netflix), he is unable to complete his memoir, and so welcomes a young ghost writer (Lucy Honigman) into his home. The political references, presumably meant to show authenticity, are laid on a little thick. And the comedic registers of all the actors haven’t necessarily aligned. Will it rise to the level of At
Home with Julia? Time will tell. This week, Dugdale has his sights set on a job as a UN Middle East peace negotiator, but first he and his wife must host a dinner without killing each other.
Thursday, 10.30pm, 7Mate
It’s amazing that this animated sitcom, created in the early 2000s by Seth MacFarlane ( Family Guy,
Ted), is still going strong. I say amazing because the lead character Stan Smith, a Republican, CIA agent and all-round patriotic buffoon, seemed to satirise the post-9/11 era so specifically, much like the 2004 film Team America: World Police, by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. With Futurama finished, The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park and this show are bit like an animation oligopoly (though terrific shows like
Archer, Bojack Horseman and Rick and Morty are out there). This week, everyone is surprised when Hayley’s husband Jeff returns from outer space, but slightly different than before. Meanwhile, Steve watches after Snot Lonstein’s pet hamster. Snot is voiced by Curtis Armstrong, who played the character Booger in cult classic
Revenge of the Nerds. It can’t be a coincidence.