free-to-air The Rocky Horror Show Live Saturday, 8.30pm, SBS
The ever popular Rocky Horror Show comes to TV, just in time for your Halloween viewing pleasure. This performance, recorded live, features Richard O’ Brien, the writer of the original musical and cowriter of the film version, returning to the cast for the first time in more than 20 years. Also starring Stephen Fry and Emma Bunton (the Spice Girls).
Sunday, 9.25pm, SBS Two
While researching Ash vs Evil Dead (truly outstanding: see next page), I was reminded of so many lesser known favourites in the low budget horror genre, particularly the films of Troma Entertainment. Equal parts horror, exploitation and farce, they brought the world such titles as
Surfer Nazis Must Die and Tromeo and Juliet. But interestingly, they also released Cannibal! The
Musical, the 1993 debut work of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who went on to create animated sitcom South Park in 1997, now in its 19th season. More brash and crass than its counterparts, and more crudely drawn, in some ways it is the biggest surprise among the longest running cartoons. The 2011 documentary 6 Days to Air:
The Making of South Park, revealed the total mayhem of creating each episode — the pay-off being of course cultural immediacy, with this season’s satirical targets including Caitlyn Jenner and Donald Trump. In this episode, You’re Not
Yelping, Cartman declares himself the top online restaurant reviewer in South Park.
The Trials of Muhammad Ali
Sunday, 10.20pm, SBS One
This 2013 documentary directed by Bill Siegel ( Hoop Dreams, The Weather Underground), examines the life of Muhammad Ali outside the boxing ring, with particular focus on his then controversial Islamic religious beliefs, the decision to change his name from Cassius Clay, and his refusal to serve in Vietnam after his status as a conscientious objector was denied. It’s a fresh perspective on a well-known individual.
Dogs — Their Secret Lives
Monday, 7.35pm, SBS One
Mark Evans, former chief veterinarian at Britain’s RSPCA, addresses an issue this week which will strike a chord with many dog owners: animal aggression, and the associated fear that a pet might harm another dog or person. We meet Thor, the great dane. When he sees another dog, his frightening behaviour includes yanking his owners by the leash to the ground and pressing against the car’s window with such force it’s a marvel it doesn’t smash. He resembles a Shetland pony. Evans and his team use a quantity of miniature cameras that would make MI5 proud to record Thor during the day when his owners aren’t there. Turns out he is being bullied by the family’s other great dane, and Evans reveals the flawed research on wolves that has fostered confusion about dominance and pack dynamics. By the end of the program, with the right retraining, all the dogs have made great strides in changing their behaviour.
Monday, 9.30pm, Ten
This season of Homeland is gathering pace. Last week saw Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and Alison Carr (Mirando Otto) trying to turn a Syrian general, for the purposes of regime change. Carr turns out to be the one trying to get Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) killed, but who blew up the Syrian general’s jet remains a mystery. One of the best things on TV, this show continues to thrill with the triumvirate of Saul, Quinn (Rupert Friend) and Carrie. In this episode titled Better Call Saul (a shout out to the Breaking Bad spin-off of the same name), the hacktivists rise up, Quinn covers for Carrie, and Dar (F. Murray Abraham) and Alison assess the damage.
Making Families Happy
Tuesday, 8.30pm, ABC
I wasn’t sure I would be glued to every episode of this series, which seeks to apply the so-called science of happiness to some troubled and dysfunctional Australian families. But they have presented characters who are compelling, and we want to know what happens to them. The three families in question — the Camerons, the Watsons and the McDonalds — have shown enormous courage to confront their problems on national television, though it must be said some appear to be trying harder than others. The good news is clinical psychologist John Aiken ( Making Couples
Happy) and child and family psychologist Clare Rowe are making headway, and the happiness scores are improving. “Two steps forward, one step back,” he says.
Tuesday, 8.40pm, Seven
I can’t imagine that emails with “800 words” in the subject line cause the same momentary confusion and fear to professionals other than journalists. The reference here, of course, is to the very successful new show on Channel 7, which has been attracting more than 1.5 million viewers, a remarkable achievement in this age of digitally fragmented audiences. Think: a transTasman Packed to the Rafters. Erik Thomson plays George Turner, a recent widower and former columnist, who has taken his children to live in a remote but stunning New Zealand town. It’s network drama, so the narrative style tends towards soap. But it has recently been renewed for a second season; you can’t knock its success.
Sherlock: The Great Game
Thursday, 8.35pm, ABC
Everyone is entitled to their favourite Sherlock Holmes. But if it isn’t Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr John Watson, you are in a minority. Created by Steven Moffat ( Doctor Who) and Mark Gatiss ( The League of
Gentlemen), who also stars as Holmes’s brother Mycroft, this concise but compelling series has been an astonishing success. This episode, The
Great Game, the finale of season one, begins with exasperating grammar lessons in Minsk and the revelation that Holmes doesn’t know that the earth revolves around the sun, and concludes with the first appearance of Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott, also starring as a Soviet spook in
Legacy: see next page). When it premiered in 2010, Moffat said: “Moriarty is usually a rather dull, rather posh villain so we thought someone who was genuinely properly frightening. Someone who’s an absolute psycho.” Mission accomplished. The long awaited new episode, set in Victorian England, is expected to screen first on Stan later this year, with seasons 1-3 available on the subscription streaming service for your bingeing pleasure now.
The Graham Norton Show
Friday, 8.30pm, Ten
Norton confirmed his cachet last week with the announcement he would be filming a special onehour show for the BBC on Monday with Adele, one of music’s brightest lights, ahead of her much anticipated third album. Doesn’t get bigger than that. Here he is joined by the almost incongruous line-up of Maggie Smith and Justin Bieber, with Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, and Cindy Crawford. Sounds like it shouldn’t really work, but that’s part of Norton’s magic.
pay-tv Tiny Haunted Houses Saturday, 8.30pm, LifeStyle Home (128)
Tiny House Nation can be pretty scary at the best of times. The idea sounds reasonable enough: families downsize and move into custom designed houses of less than 40sq m (smaller than a studio apartment). In some cases it’s for environmental reasons; others want the freedom of being mortgage free. Each episode shows the design process, the construction and the delighted occupants moving in. The scary thought for me is imagining them a year down the track, accidentally up-ending a bowl of soup on their doona … again. Or stubbing their toe for the hundredth time. Or sending a child to a naughty corner — only 25cm away from everyone else: the horror! This special Halloween episode will feature a village of tiny houses in the woods of Maryland.
The World According to Dick Cheney
Sunday, 8.35pm, Showcase (115)
If you are looking for a contrite Dick Cheney you will not find him here. This is no Fog of War, the documentary that featured the searing introspection of an elderly Robert McNamara, a US secretary of defence during the Vietnam war. Nor does it hold a candle to David Frost’s famous Nixon interviews, where the former president made several damning admissions. This documentary, which aired in the US a little more than 18 months ago, features a defiant former US vice-president. A key flaw in the format is that his statements are not cross-examined, nor is he made to respond to key accusations the documentary makes. On topics such as Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the waterboarding of terror suspects, Guantanamo Bay and the key errors in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, Cheney simply states that he was prepared to go to any lengths to protect Americans from another mass casualty attack. And further, he says: “If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it in a minute.’’ Those who think him a patriot or a villain are unlikely to change their minds based on this otherwise very interesting documentary.
Bart Cummings: All The King’s Horses
Monday, 7.30pm, History (611)
With the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, this timely documentary celebrates the life and achievements of the peerless Australian horse trainer Bart Cummings who died in August this year. Beginning with his first Melbourne Cup winner in 1965, Light Fingers, it traces his 12 other Cup winners, as well as Derby and Cox Plate victories, plus those horses that captured the public’s imagination, such as Shaftsbury Avenue, Storm Queen, Campaign King, Beau Zam and So You Think. It includes stories from his family, journalists, breeders, jockeys, strappers, stable hands and foremen.
Great British Menu
Monday, 9.30pm, LifeStyle Food (127)
If ever there were a program to put paid to the stereotype of British food being bland and inedible, this is it. I have discerned a method for predicting who will win a given episode: the closer the chefs’ faces get to their food, and the more finely they manipulate their ingredients with their fingertips, the better their score. Here in episode 36 of season 10, chefs Pip Lacey, Richard Bainbridge and Jason Hodnett are preparing starters, in a contest to create a banquet menu to mark the centenary of the Women’s Institute. If, however, your tastes tend towards conflict over cuisine, check out Come
Dine With Me Couples (Thursday, 8.30pm, Lifestyle Food): in this episode an ill-advised menu is based solely on a love of hummus.
Castles in the Sky
Tuesday, 9am, BBC First (117)
It seems banal to observe that Eddie Izzard is probably the world’s most famous transvestite. But it’s worth mentioning as at first you may not recognise him here as Robert Watson-Watt, a sartorially conventional fellow, but a scientific iconoclast. In 1935, Watson-Watt demonstrated that aircraft could be detected with radio waves, a discovery that proved crucial during the Battle of Britain. This drama follows Watson-Watt and his team of scientists, who worked tirelessly to see their invention deployed. Not an astonishing drama but pleasant viewing.
The Great Australian Bake Off
Tuesday, 8.30pm, LifeStyle Food (127)
I’ve always thought the lowest form of humour was not the pun or the callback (repeating a recent punchline) but the pie in the face. I’ll repeat: no publicists from this show have attempted to duchess me with cakes, though from this episode it seems they have enough lying around for Claire Hooper to smash one in Mel Buttle’s face. This week, the nine remaining bakers try their hands at pies, a blood orange and chocolate meringue pie, and a deep-dish fruit pie.
Gunpowder Plotters: In Their Own Words
Wednesday, 8.30pm, History (611)
If your knowledge of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 is limited to the 2005 film V for Vendetta, check out this docudrama based on the conspiracy’s primary historical sources: the written accounts of the perpetrators and the accounts of the relentless interrogations of eight of the plotters.
Wednesday, 8.30pm, BBC First (117)
This is the sort of program the BBC continues to do so well. Set in 1974, and based on the espionage thriller by Alan Judd, it boasts a terrific cast including Charlie Cox ( Daredevil), Andrew Scott (Jim Moriarty in TV’s Sherlock) and Romola Garai ( The Hour, Atonement). Cox plays MI6 agent Charles Thoroughgood, who is sent to recruit an old college acquaintance, Viktor Koslov (Scott), now a Russian diplomat. But Viktor turns the tables, revealing that Thoroughgood’s father was a Russian asset. Gripping.
Thursday, 7.30pm, Fox 8 (108)
I can pinpoint the moment I fell off the superhero TV show bandwagon: the short-lived NBC series The Cape which, yes, featured a fellow who used a cape for a weapon. The pilot episodes of all these shows rip through the Joseph Campbell template at ludicrous speed: the call to adventure, refusal of the call, supernatural aid, crossing the threshold, and so on. I remember watching the slightly preposterous pilot for Arrow, based on the DC Comic character Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell). He is a billionaire playboy cum vigilante who learned to use a bow and arrow while shipwrecked on a mysterious island. Fox 8 plans to screen, along with The Flash, two more DC Comic adaptations, Supergirl in December and Legends of Tomorrow next year.
best of streaming Ash vs Evil Dead From Saturday, Stan
Director Sam Raimi has just blown the roof off the universe with this TV resurrection of his Evil Dead film franchise, the quintessential cult classic. (With the excellent Fargo on SBS right now, we seem to be in a purple patch for these adaptations.) Seeing Bruce Campbell reprising his role as Ash Williams in this horror-farce is quite simply joyful — the moment when he affixes his chainsaw to the stump where his recalcitrant hand used to be, and decapitates his demonically possessed elderly neighbour, is something to behold. His sidekicks are Ray Santiago as Pablo Simon Bolivar and Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly. Lucy Lawless also makes a cameo. It won’t appeal to everyone. But if you watch one horror-themed program this Halloween, make it this one.