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Author: Melinda Houston
Date: 05/01/2014
Words: 1830
Source: SHD
          Publication: Sun Herald
Section: TV Liftout
Page: 2

January 5


6pm, ABC1, RATING: 7/10

This documentary series is a lo-fi kind of affair but as we move through the episodes, it continues to engage. The filmmakers followed various Perth high-flyers over the course of a year and, as it turned out, it proved to be an eventful one. When we arrived in the city, everyone was riding high. Tonight, falling ore prices in China are beginning to bite, having a practical impact on Fortescue Metals and a psychological effect on the

rest of the state. It's a fascinating micro-look at the effects of

the big economic stories on

the strugglers and those

who succeed.


9.30pm, Nine, RATING: 7/10

The whole eidetic memory shtick is frankly unbelievable but two personable leads in Poppy Montgomery and Nip/Tuck's Dylan Walsh  and nice chemistry between them  make this lightweight crime drama enjoyable viewing. Particularly fun tonight is the car-chase scene. I'm sure Australian police command would not approve but, you know, this is New York. They do things differently there.

Escape to the Country

8.30pm, 7Two, RATING: 6/10

Tonight we're in Nottinghamshire with a lovely, unassuming couple who grew up in the region and are looking to return home as they ease into retirement. Along with loving shots of Sherwood Forest we get to see some rather nice homes including a delightful (and surprisingly roomy) 19th-century cottage, and a wonderful contemporary folly that might just win our house-hunters' hearts.


January 6

Small Time Gangster

9.30pm, SBS One, RATING: 7/10

You could watch this for the glorious locations alone. No series since Sylvania Waters has so perfectly captured the distinctive bad taste of Australia's nouveau riche and here we see it not just in a single outer-suburban mansion but in one after the other, each slightly different from the last but each hilariously spacious, sun-filled and ugly. Then there's also the story itself: funny-sad, bitter-sweet, full of gorgeous moments and again, quintessentially and unmistakably Australian. Tonight Tony doggedly forges ahead with his plan to quit the business and go straight and

Les reluctantly comes on

board  with potentially disastrous results.

Hell on Wheels

9.30pm, ABC2, RATING: 7/10

The blood and mud won't be to everyone's taste but, if you love a good contemporary western (or are already hooked on Hell on Wheels), you'll love the season two return. Anson Mount's Cullen is a bit brooding and one-dimensional for my taste but, along with the action, this is enlivened by some wonderful characters including Elam (played by rapper Common), who tonight is commissioned to do some seriously dirty work.


6.30pm, Eleven, RATING: 6/10

The exciting bit of tonight's season return isn't actually all that exciting (Georgia being rescued from Gemma's evil clutches). But this instalment does remind us that Neighbours is quite capable of throwing up genuine emotional moments, especially when there's some quality acting talent involved. Case in point: Lauren's heart-to-heart with Lucy about last year's surprise reveal. Kate Kendall does a superb job and sets us up for more drama in 2014.


January 7

By Any Means

9.30pm, ABC1, RATING: 7/10

If you're going to enjoy this show, the important thing to remember is to not take it too seriously. Initially, it sends some mixed messages. A terrified family are being held hostage. The man of the house is forced to open a safe and then  minor spoiler  is shot in the head for his troubles. The mastermind is untouchable, and a special task force is assigned the job of bringing him down  "by any means". But this ain't The Sweeney. As the action unfolds it becomes clear it has far more in common with Hustle in the team's almost supernatural ability to con criminal masterminds and crack world's-best security systems. Add Keith Allen in an outrageous cameo and you have a fun romp that still manages to generate some nice tension.

Ben and Kate

9.30pm, Eleven, RATING: 6/10

Another sweet episode of this easy-to-like sitcom, in which Kate helps her dad out with a business deal while Ben takes over organising the father-daughter dance at Maddie's school. The real cliffhanger, though, is when Buddy's

wife (who turns out not to be

so ex) confronts BJ  forcing

the hard-drinking maneater to face some uncomfortable

truths. Not a lot of laughs, but lots of smiles.


10.30pm, Seven, RATING: 7/10

Oh no! Poor Donna. While the complicated murder trial of Ava Hessington continues to confound the brightest minds of Pearson Darby, Harvey's right-hand-person finds herself caught between following her heart, or corporate loyalty. And for Donna, the latter is no small matter. It's quite the tangle, and  minor spoiler  I'm afraid there are tears before bedtime.


January 8


9.30pm, SBS One, RATING: 8/10

It's a credit to both the writing and Sidse Babett Knudsen's performance that even as Birgitte becomes ever more compromised, we continue to be on her side. Borgen somehow helps us understand that when the people we elect disappoint us, there's often not just bogglingly complex reasons for the betrayals and about-faces, there's also a quantity of hand-wringing and heartbreak behind the scenes. Tonight in the first of a two-parter entitled What Is Lost Inwardly Must be Gained Outwardly, Birgitte and her government are desperate for a way to regain public support, but the option presented to her is fraught, to say the least.

Beverly Hills 90210

5.30pm, Eleven, RATING: 6/10

It was with some trepidation that I approached reruns of a series I adored when it was first screening. We all knew it was pretty cheesy even back then. How would it look 20 years on? Amazingly, it actually looks great. Sure those "cordless" phones are hilarious, as are the pants. But as a family/teen drama, Beverly Hills 90210 absolutely holds up: surprisingly edgy but with a really sweet heart.

Kevin McCloud's Man Made Home

8.30pm, ABC1, RATING: 7/10

Kevin's at it again, this time building a dream beach shack on the Somerset coast. The expanding and evolving shed certainly becomes more covetable by the day but, as with the last series, what's most interesting are the ingenious ways he and his mates supply creature comforts without going down the retail route. Tonight, that involves a disgusting mix of fish guts and rum that

produces surprising results.


January 9

The Moaning of Life

9.30pm, ABC1, RATING: 7/10

Anyone who loves Karl Pilkington (and there are plenty of us) will love this new series in which  on turning 40  he decides to take a hard look at life's big questions. All in his inimitable style, of course, and all while travelling the world to see how the other half does it. Apart from anything else the exercise leaves us with a burning desire to become acquainted with Pilkington's partner of 20 years, Suzanne. Partly to discover just who would put up with him for 20 years, and partly because the references to her he continually drops are intriguing. Tonight, deliciously, he's investigating "happiness".

Nowhere Boys

6.30pm, ABC3, RATING: 7/10

More secrets are revealed in another thrilling instalment of this excellent young person's drama series. There are divisions within our crew, some of whom are more anxious to get home than others, and the local constabulary are starting to smell a rat, too. There's magic and mayhem, demonic possession, and if you thought Ja'mie was scary, just watch what happens here ...

The Amazing Race: Final

10.30pm, Seven, RATING: 6/10

Tonight's finale isn't quite the thriller we've come to expect from this series but at least it's nice to be reminded (or convinced) that despite its heavily manufactured nature, the final outcome of the competition really is up to the skill of the contestants, and a good dose of luck. In this last leg the final three couples leave Tokyo for Alaska, where along with the action I learn how to spell Juneau. (It's not Juno.)


January 10

David Starkey's Music and Monarchy

8.35pm, SBS One, RATING: 7/10

Dr David Starkey may have become something of a caricature of himself but there's no doubt his knowledge and passion make for terrific television. And without straying too far from his favourite subject  the great kings and queens of ye olde England  he seems capable of constantly finding fresh angles to examine it. For instance, this excellent new series in which he examines how British music was shaped by the monarchy also shows us how the reverse was true, that various monarchs used music to shape their image and further their ambitions. He begins tonight with two kings who were also composers  Henry V and Henry VIII  and rounds out the episode with that great patron of the arts, Elizabeth I.

Confessions of a Wedding Planner

8.30pm, ABC2, RATING: 7/10

Another delightful instalment of this excellent series, tonight looking at a Nigerian-born British couple and two kids from Leeds, one of whom is whiter than white, the other from a good Chinese family. Joyous, touching and often very funny. (The scenes in which the country Anglican vicar good-naturedly hosts the all-singing, all-dancing Pentecostal Nigerian wedding are a hoot.)

Better Homes and Gardens Summer

7pm, Seven, RATING: 6/10

These compilations make very pleasant Friday night viewing, especially if you're not a regular watcher. Tonight Fast Ed whips up some great looking fried chicken. (Mmm. Fried chicken.) Jason plants out an edible garden while Graham goes one better by creating an edible water garden. Karen shows us how to make the perfect platter. And in the pet segment? Working dogs. What more could you ask for.


January 11

Filthy Cities

7.30pm, ABC2, RATING: 7/10

Historian Dan Snow is perhaps too enthusiastic in his efforts to convince us just how FOUL and DISGUSTING and STINKY and FILTHY London was in the 13th century  the time at which it blossomed into a proper metropolis. As he wades through excrement, disembowels a pig, and waves a live rat around (occasionally taking a break to retch) it's frequently quite hard to watch. But as he leads us through the decades that culminated in the outbreak of the Great Plague  and then to the improvements in sanitation and hygiene that followed  it's also an intriguing journey. Next week: Paris. Which was apparently also completely filthy.

KFC T20 Big Bash

1.30pm, 7pm, Ten, RATING: 7/10

Bah humbug to the cricket nazis who decry this big-tent version of the sacred game. It's an awful lot of fun and has one big advantage over this year's Ashes series: there's actually a bit of competition. It's a double-header today, too, with Sydney Thunder taking on the Hobart Hurricanes this afternoon, followed by a showdown between Brisbane Heat and the ill-fated Melbourne Stars.

In Plain Sight

10.30pm, Eleven, RATING: 7/10

It isn't flashy but there's plenty to like about this crime drama centring on US Marshall Mary Shannon, queen of Witness Protection. And you don't have to be invested in the series to enjoy tonight's instalment despite the fact that it focuses on the return of Mary's prodigal father (who also happens to be on the FBI's most wanted list). Mary McCormack is excellent in the lead role  tough but sympathetic  and the plot has plenty of surprises.

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