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There is an extent to which the venerable MKR has soiled itself of late with a penchant for casting unlikeable contestants to manufacture conflict. Not that this is anything new in the reality TV realm, but as season eight has proved again, the gambit is a double-edged sword. No amount of clever and/or deceptive editing could mask the, uh, reality that designated villain Josh lacked either the requisite culinary skills to be a credible contender in the kitchen or the charismatic venom required of a consistently telegenic antihero. Thus, the heavily promoted clashes with contestants never made for legitimate drama. Of the four likeable and honestly talented teams remaining as we go to press, smart money tips Amy and Tyson to reign supreme. Segue to ... The season nine premiere of that other culinary franchise finds cooking made fun again, with the emotional retooling of the franchise a welcome corrective to unwanted friction and story over substance. There are stirrings of an epicurean love-in: food critic Matt Preston pairs a distinguished new white beard with more flattering three-piece suits, while formerly moody chef George Calombaris is so giddy he’s caught mugging behind someone’s back; they’re animated enough to render always affable restaurateur Gary Mehigan nearly subdued by comparison. But MasterChef is all about the cooking, and the food: when just the second auditioning contestant blows the judges away with her gnocchi, it becomes abundantly clear a newly renovated kitchen is now open. Grantchester Sunday, 8.30pm, ABC “How does a man drown in the middle of a church?” perpetually harried Detective Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green) asks his partner in crime-solving and worldly local Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) upon discovering the head of the soup kitchen spreadeagled on the floor with water coming out of his mouth. And what’s with the dead ravens left as ominous keepsakes? It’s just another case for this appealing odd couple in a show famously called “Cluedo with cassocks” by one British wag. It is still 1950s Granchester and still an atypical British crime series where the chemistry of the leads matters more than the viscera of the dead. A guilty pleasure it may be, but there are few screen musicals as unabashedly joyous and defiantly rough around the edges as director Phyllida Lloyd’s bold, fluid 2008 adaptation of the hit stage musical Mamma Mia! (Friday, 8.35pm, SBS). It’s no secret that by this time Meryl Streep was actively looking for projects in which she could display her fine singing voice, and her exuberant Donna Sheridan is one of her finest roles. Christine Baranski and, unlikely as it seems, Pierce Brosnan are fearless in support. In the wake of the increasingly bloated sequels, it is easy to forget that the original 2003 Pirates of the Caribbean (Saturday, 7pm, Seven), subtitled The Curse of the Black Pearl, is a fun adventure anchored by Johnny Depp’s eccentric performance as Captain Jack Sparrow and Geoffrey Rush’s conniving villain, Hector Barbossa. New Zealand-born actor Anna Paquin made her debut in 1993’s The Piano and won an Oscar for her performance. Three years later she again enthralled in director Carroll Ballard’s lovely family drama Fly Away Home (Saturday, 5pm, 7Flix) opposite Jeff Daniels; she plays Amy Alden, who inherits a gaggle of geese and teaches them how to fly.
Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep and Julie Walters in Mamma Mia!