quick bites

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Justin Burke

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).

South Park

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.

Home­land

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.

800 Words

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.

Legacy

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.

Ar­row

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.

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