Walking With Dinosaurs: New Blood
Sunday, ABC, 7.30pm ****
If you like your wildlife big, then this one's for you. They really don't
come much bigger than in Walking With Dinosaurs, an eye-opening six-part
prehistoric natural-history series from the BBC that ultimately makes Jurassic
Park look like a show-and-tell at the kiddy's play-pen.
Unless you have a smartypants 10-year-old dino-freak in the house, some of
the dinosaurs may be unfamiliar at first, but be assured that all the regulars -
tyrannosaurus rex, stegosaurus and diplodocus - will be around. Brought to life
by advanced computer animation, sophisticated animatronics, and the learned
advice of a team of scientists who had undoubtedly hoped to travel to the
locations used for the show's backdrops: Bermuda, Australia, New Zealand, New
Caledonia, the Bahamas and California.
The first episode is set in New Caledonia, though, as true-believer and
narrator Kenneth Branagh tells us, it is really Arizona in the year 220,000,000
BC. The late Triassic period. The first of the dinosaurs we see are coelphyses,
thin, agile and long-legged supermodels that gang up against creatures like the
placeria, herbivores about the size of a concrete mixer. Cynodonts, small, part
mammal-part reptile, spend most of their time in burrows hiding from this
action. They're the "cute" ones of New Blood.
There are more spectacular players. Hollywood is sure to sign up the
terrifying land crocodile postosochus, and you will be amazed to see how a
four-tonne plateosaurus lifts its leg to mark its territory.
How do palaeontologists know all this? Much of it is an educated guess, of
course, but dino-experts have always been good at that. In Jurassic Park, for
instance, a tyrannosaurus eats a lawyer. The Walking With Dinosaurs team has
already worked out that it would take 238 average-sized lawyers a year to keep
that dinosaur satisfied. And heaven knows how much Alka-Seltzer . . .
If These Walls Could Talk
Sunday, Channel 10, 8.30pm *
You look at the stars, Demi Moore, Sissy Spacek and Cher, and expect
something special. You look at the subject, the emotionally charged issue of
abortion, and you expect something powerful. Then you remember that this is an
American telemovie and, though you know there will be a lot of angst and a lot
of posturing, realise it will be as balanced as concrete scales. If These Walls
Could Talk, an HBO film produced by Moore, Spacek and Cher, is neither clearly
pro-choice nor pro-life. It focuses on one home and, in three separate stories,
looks at how three women who lived there dealt with unplanned pregnancies in the
early '50s, early '70s and mid-'90s. Changing times, unchanging anxieties.
Moore plays a young war widow who becomes pregnant to her brother-in-law and is
forced to find a backyard abortionist. Spacek's harassed middle-aged mother
lives in more liberating times and, though the pressures are on her to have an
abortion, she is uncertain. Cher, who also woefully directed the third, probably
more pro-choice segment, plays a doctor ?working in a besieged abortion clinic.
But this is a meanderng drama in which all the attention is on the detail. As
an historical road map on how far society has evolved in its struggle to deal
with abortion, it has little to offer. Just a lot of one-way streets.
Sunday, ABC, 8.30pm ***
It may have something to do with El Ni?o, or the melting of the northern
ice-cap, or a run on the daylight saving bank, but every program filmed north of
London these days seems to be made in the dark. Eureka Street, a promising new
four-part BBC drama set in contemporary Belfast, is no exception, its few
daylight scenes also looking as if they've been shot through a grit-spattered
lens on a rainy day. And yet Eureka Street, directed quirkily by Adrian Shergold
(of the blackly humorous, recently screened Births, Marriages And Deaths), does
show us a Belfast more akin to Roddy Doyle's Dublin than to the tragic
Troubles-sated city to which we've become accustomed. Based on a novel by local
writer Robert McLiam Wilson, it follows the mixed adventures of hard-man Jake
Jackson (Vincent Regan), a debt collector with a conscience, and his "fat git"
pal, Chuckie Lurgan (Mark Benton), a loser on whom the fates suddenly start to
smile. Jackson the "repo man", who shows his softer side through the narration,
is not so lucky, losing his girlfriend and finding himself with a policeman in
hot pursuit. And then the political firebrand Aoirghe Jenkins (Dervla Kirwan)
comes into his life. Their bittersweet future looks bright, even if the
camerawork leaves us in the gloom.
Weekdays, Channel 10, 6.30pm **
Soaps, we are told, have become society's "virtual communities", providing us
all with the shared experiences we once enjoyed from our street, town or
workplace. Well, there will be some sad faces around the box this week as the
Martin family - Phil (Ian Rawlings), Ruth (Ailsa Piper) and Hannah (Rebecca
Ritters) - say goodbye to Ramsay Street. And no, they're not being sent to
Brisbane. The budget is better these days. The Martins are heading off to a new
life in Darwin.
Kavanagh QC: Briefs Trooping Gaily
Wednesday, Channel 7, 9.30pm ***
You heap coals on your own head, you'll find them hot! That's what Kavanagh's
father used to say and, though I'm not sure what it means, I suspect that's
what John Thaw's QC is doing in this week's drama. Kavanagh's client, a young
woman accused of killing her husband, insists on changing her plea in court
against his advice. Not only that, Kavanagh finds himself agreeing to defend the
vain Jeremy Aldermarten on a professional misconduct charge. Jeremy peeked at
another's briefs . . . highlights
Goodnight Mister Tom
Friday, Channel 7, 8.30pm ****
No cops, no villains, no law books? What can one say about John Thaw without
his usual props? Only that he's well worth catching in Goodnight Mister Tom, a
telemovie based on the prizewinning English novel set in World War II. Thaw
plays the cranky, widowed Tom Oakley, a village loner who, in 1940, finds
himself caring for a troubled nine-year-old London evacuee, Willie Beech (Nick
Robinson). As Tom gets to know this other loner, he realises the boy has a dark
past. Slowly their relationship develops. It's a touching film about simple
human emotions, the rehabilitation of two people who have suffered in different
ways. One for all the family.
Sunday, ABC, 8pm ***
Perhaps I was a little unfair about Victoria Wood's new series dinnerladies.
Last month's "sneak preview", based around a royal visit to the troupe's
canteen, left me decidedly undernourished and seeing it as little more than a
variation of such cretinous Britcom forgettables as It Ain't Half Hot Mum. This
episode, however, is a fast-cooking bobby-snorter, packed with silly giggles,
guffaws and double entendres from the Wood arsenal. Victoria is, of course, a
treat as Bren, but, while the dinner ladies worry about weddings, the lack of
"granary torpedo" rolls, and the Scottish country-dancing newcomer in human
resources, the show-stealer is Julie Walters as her potty mother. dinnerladies
clearly has a lot more going for it than I thought. Manager Stan (Duncan
Preston) best captures the atmosphere. "Out of a work force of five," he says,
"at any given moment one will have premenstrual tension, one's panicking because
she's not, someone's having a hot flush and someone else is having a nervous
breakdown because her HRT patch has fallen in the minestrone."
Two Years In Galapagos
Wednesday, ABC, 8.30pm ****
At last, a film that tells you what it's really like in the world of David
Attenboroughs. Film makers David Parer and Liz Parer-Cook take us behind the
camera to show how they produced those award-winning natural history
documentaries over their two years in the Galapagos. Suddenly, we pull back from
the close-ups of iguanas, giant tortoises and blue-foot boobies to see the
human activity in all its nesting and migratory detail. Along with the Parers
was a support team and their three-year-old daughter Zoe, a charmer we see
befriending sealion pups and learning about her environment. Parer shares his
techniques, his insect-plagued discomforts and his triumphs. It is exhilarating
television: camera cases are swept into the sea, red-hot lava flows close to
where they've camped, nature teases them with the feeding-frenzy shots they must
have. There are backbreaking hauls up a volcano with the iguanas and
magnificent dives with the hammerhead and whale sharks. "There's a lot of luck,
a lot of serendipity," says Parer. And, as this superb how-its-done film
illustrates, an astonishing amount of hard work.
The World's Greatest Commercials: Cannes 1999
Sunday, Channel 7, 7.30pm **
Forget that dancing baby. Advertising's superstars now offer a troupe of
diving babies performing spectacular Busby Berkeley aquatic routines. And babies
being tattooed. They're also into humor in a big way. Andrew Daddo delivers the
latest batch of entertaining and award-winning international commercials. Keep
an eye out for Jeep Cherokee's smart zebras, a superb series promoting
tolerance, and Budweiser's hostage-taking lobster.
Huey's Cooking Adventures
Weekdays, Channel 7, 5pm **
Superchef Iain Hewitson switches networks for a new daily series in which he
will encourage viewers to cook along with the show. Recipes and ingredients will
be given the day before he prepares the dish. So go to it practical foodies!
2 Shot: Richard Glover & Garry McDonald
Monday, ABC, 10.30pm ***
Another very special 2 Shot interview. A surprisingly open Garry McDonald
looks back on the anxieties, triumphs and real pleasures of his life with a
gently analytical Richard Glover. The generally introspective actor talks about
his longtime rift with writer Trevor Farrant and of his hopes for a 25th
anniversary show with Norman Gunston.
2 Shot: Richard Glover & Garry McDonald
Tuesday, Channel 9, 8.30pm **
Ray Martin attempts to satisfy our apparent hunger for best-of lists with a
new series in which viewers and celebrity "experts" debate and decide exactly
what has been the best of everything.
Bananas In Pyjamas
Monday, ABC, 4pm **
B1 and B2 return to air in time to celebrate their birthday. Almost everyone
in Cuddles Avenue, Bananas and Teddies alike, is thinking of the surprise party.
Except Rat-in-a-Hat. And me. I'm feeling sick.
Pavarotti And Friends
Friday, Channel 7, 10.45pm **
Pav's pals? This time they include Ricky Martin, Mariah Carey, B.B.King,
Boyzone, Gloria Estefan and Lionel Richie. Don't expect Wagner.
1999 Honda Gold Coast Indy
Today, Channel 10, 11am
Another day for petrol-heads begins with coverage of all the races at the
1999 Indy 300 - six in all. The Gold Coast Indy is the 19th and second last race
for the Indy season and, despite the split in Indy car racing organisations in
the United States, still boasts some legendary names among the drivers including
Fittipaldi, Andretti and Unser. And there is plenty of interest in the
championship table as only 13 points separates first, Juan Montoya, and second,
Mercantile Mutual Cricket
Today, Channel 9, 11am
South Australia takes on Tasmania in what should be a game between two
evenly matched teams.
1999 Malaysian Grand Prix
Today, Channel 9, 3.50pm
A chance to see a formula one grand prix without having to wait up until the
wee hours of the morning. There have probably been more different formula one
winners this season than for many a year, which should be enough to give this
race enormous interest.
The Union Game
Monday, ABC, 11pm
This is the final episode in what has been a marvellous series but even if
you have missed all the others, this episode is important enough to stand on its
own. It places the game in the context of 1999, exploring as it does the change
to professionalism after 100 years as a sport that held proudly to its amateur
tradition. With the World Cup on at present, it provides a chance for those just
learning about the game to understand it a bit better.
World Cup Rugby - Quarter-finals
Thursday (Wednesday night), Channel 7, 12.15am
Three quarter-final matches in a row take this telecast into the early hours
of the morning, although there is an hour-long highlights package on at a more
respectable 7.30am. This is the same stage of the tournament that produced that
unbelievable match against Ireland in 1991 - which no doubt contributed to
converting to the game many who saw it. The last quarter final is on Saturday
night at 11.35.
1999 Cox Plate
Saturday, Channel 9, 12pm
This is the meeting that has the best horserace in Australia - the W.S. Cox
Plate. It may not have the glitz, glamor, party atmosphere and crowds of the
Melbourne Cup, but it is the race that is traditionally won by champions and is
the Sport of Kings at its absolute best.
-- Sport by Andrew Ryan