The Best of the Week

New Zealand Listener - - THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT -


The First Marathon (SoHo, Sky 010, 1.55pm). This year’s award for a drama mas­querad­ing as sci­ence fic­tion goes to The First, which is less about a manned mis­sion to Mars and more about the emo­tional cost of such an en­deav­our and the grief suf­fered by Tom Hagerty (Sean Penn) and his daugh­ter Denise (Anna Ja­coby-Heron) after the sui­cide of wife and mum Diane (Melissa Ge­orge). It’s slow and thought­ful – not a bad thing – and the flashi­ness lies in the fu­ture-tech vir­tual re­al­ity and holo­grams. Record and en­joy over a slow week­end.

QI (Prime, 9.00pm). Sea­son M be­gins, Stephen Fry’s fi­nal sea­son of QI. At least there are 16 episodes to go be­fore the High Priest of Trivia ex­its, stage left, and Sandi Toksvig scam­pers in. Fry has been pre­sent­ing since the se­ries be­gan in 2003 and, at its worst, episodes could be a half-hour of Stephen Talks to the Class. But at their best, es­pe­cially with David Mitchell or Jo Brand on the panel, it was sub­lime. Toksvig ap­pears as a pan­el­list this sea­son, along with Bill Bai­ley, Brand, Danny Bhoy, Sarah Mil­li­can, Noel Field­ing and James Acaster.


Travel Man: 48 Hours in … Christ­mas Spe­cial (Choice TV, 7.30pm). It’s a Christ­mas spe­cial for no other rea­son than it’s that time of year, as Richard Ayoade is in Hong Kong, where there does not ap­pear to be any­thing re­motely Christ­mas-ad­ja­cent hap­pen­ing. How­ever, he’s there for a “yule that rules” with suc­cess­ful ac­tor Jon Hamm, who is up for most things, in­clud­ing ven­omous-snake soup, cable-car rides, a bru­tal foot mas­sage (Ayoade: “Oh, he’s just punch­ing me now”), a suit made of vel­vet and open-air tai chi (Hamm is very good with a fan, by the way. An ac­tual fan, not a Mad Men one).


9-1-1 (Three, 8.40pm). Is it our imag­i­na­tion, or is 9-1-1 be­com­ing more ridicu­lous? The mid-sea­son fi­nale, as they say, fea­tures a stam­pede at a toy store, a mistle­toe stunt gone wrong and a Christ­mas-lights show­down be­tween neigh­bours. We miss you, Con­nie Brit­ton.

Joanna Lum­ley’s Ja­pan (Choice TV, 8.30pm). You may have al­ready caught this se­ries on Prime, but it is ab­so­lutely worth an­other look, or es­pe­cially a first one. Lum­ley is, as al­ways, the most charm­ing travel com­pan­ion as she jour­neys across Ja­pan’s four main is­lands.

Lit­tle Dor­rit (TVNZ OnDe­mand). TVNZ has been adding more and more back-cat­a­logue fare to its on-de­mand plat­form (in­clud­ing Daw­son’s Creek, ER, Freaks and Geeks, the orig­i­nal Queer as Folk and The Se­cret Life of Us), and we’d par­tic­u­larly like to point out this BBC adap­ta­tion of the Charles Dick­ens novel star­ring Claire Foy well be­fore she was QEII in The Crown. It’s writ­ten by An­drew Davies and stars a re­volv­ing door of top Bri­tish thes­pi­ans, in­clud­ing Matthew Mac­fadyen, Tom Court­ney,

Sue John­ston, Alun Arm­strong, Max­ine Peake, Har­riet Wal­ter, Amanda Red­man, Ed­die Marsan and Andy Serkis. Equally good, and also on de­mand from to­day, is 2005’s Bleak House, sim­i­larly adapted by An­drew Davies and star­ring Gil­lian An­der­son, Ti­mothy West, Anna Maxwell Martin

and Charles Dance as the lawyer Tulk­inghorn who, said our re­viewer Diana Wich­tel, “car­ries fam­ily se­crets like a con­cealed weapon”. But wait, there’s more on-de­mand Dick­ens, pos­si­bly too much more: Tony Jor­dan’s pas­tiche Dick­en­sian is so stuffed full of char­ac­ters it’s dif­fi­cult to keep up. In the 20-part se­ries, Bleak House’s In­spec­tor Bucket (Stephen Rea) in­ves­ti­gates the mur­der of Ebenezer Scrooge’s busi­ness part­ner, Ja­cob Mar­ley.

Christa­bel & Sylvia (His­tory, Sky 073, 9.30pm). While we were cel­e­brat­ing 125 years since New Zealand women gained vot­ing rights, they were hav­ing a sim­i­lar cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tion in the UK, tem­pered by the knowl­edge that only some women gained the right to vote in 1918 (it would be an­other 10 years be­fore the fran­chise was ex­tended to all women). This doc­u­men­tary looks at Christa­bel and Sylvia Pankhurst who, led by their mother Em­me­line, were at the fore­front of the fight. How­ever, de­spite fac­ing a hos­tile es­tab­lish­ment and suf­fer­ing ar­rests and phys­i­cal at­tacks to­gether, the sis­ters ar­gued about the di­rec­tion of the suf­frage move­ment. Sylvia was also op­posed to the 1914 war, whereas her mother and

sis­ter were ea­ger sup­port­ers.


The 2000s (Prime, 8.30pm). Re­mem­ber when Face­book was a fun way to con­nect with friends and fam­ily, be­fore Rus­sian hack­ers used it to seed fake sto­ries about Democrats and in­flu­ence elec­tions, be­fore a po­lit­i­cal con­sult­ing firm used by the Trump cam­paign gained ac­cess to the per­sonal data of mil­lions of users, and be­fore con­spir­acy the­o­ries and hate speech were al­lowed to run ram­pant through ev­ery­one’s news feed? Yeah, good times. The fi­nal of the se­ries also cov­ers the rise of Ap­ple, Ama­zon, YouTube and Google.


Free­dom Rid­ers (Choice TV, 8.30pm). There aren’t too many travel shows that cel­e­brate mo­tor­bike cul­ture quite so much as this: vet­eran, some might say ob­sessed, biker Charley Boor­man (who trav­elled from Lon­don to New York on a mo­tor­bike with his friend Ewan McGre­gor in Long Way Round, and then went from Scot­land to South Africa in Long Way Down) ar­rives in six dif­fer­ent Asian cities and seeks out the best bik­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The gim­mick is “one bike, one tank of petrol”; why, we don’t know.


Ba­bies: Their Won­der­ful World (Choice TV, 8.30pm). The BBC ex­per­i­ments on ba­bies in this three-part se­ries, which fea­tures re­search from ba­bies and fam­i­lies around the world. In the first episode, it’s how ba­bies de­velop lan­guage and their own in­ter­ests and pref­er­ences, as well as tem­per­a­ment and self-con­trol. Pos­si­bly the cutest sci­ence pro­gramme ever.


Shake­speare Un­cov­ered (Sky Arts, Sky 020, 9.15pm). Shake­speare isn’t just for Bri­tish thesps, you know. The first episode of sea­son three of Shake­speare Un­cov­ered is He­len Hunt on Much Ado About Noth­ing, in which she once re­ceived rave re­views for her Beatrice. Sim­i­larly, F Mur­ray Abra­ham starred as Shy­lock in a tour­ing pro­duc­tion of

The Mer­chant of Venice and has some­thing to say about anti-semitism in 17th-cen­tury Eng­land. Ro­mola Garai dis­cusses Mea­sure for Mea­sure and vice and sex­ual cor­rup­tion at the high­est lev­els, and Brian Cox re­marks on how eas­ily a tyrant can cor­rupt a free repub­lic, based on his study of Julius Cae­sar. There are also in­ter­views with di­rec­tors and schol­ars, clips from film and tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tions and footage from the plays staged at the Globe The­atre in Lon­don.

QI, Sat­ur­day.

Lit­tle Dor­rit, Mon­day.

Christa­bel & Sylvia, Mon­day.

Shake­speare Un­cov­ered, Fri­day.

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