Monthly Archives: September 2019

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Sunday, January 5


Foyle’s War, ABC1, 8.30pm As we enter the eighth series of this BBC stalwart, it’s not so much Foyle’s War as it is ”Foyle’s Cold War”. Protagonist DCS Foyle (Michael Kitchen) has been transplanted from Hastings during World War II to London in 1946, as the Cold War brews. He is reunited with his trusty sidekick, Sam Wainwright (Honeysuckle Weeks), but the circumstances are less than desirable. Wainwright is working for a nuclear physicist who has been implicated in an MI5 investigation, and the secret service suspects that Wainwright might be involved too, thwarting Foyle’s plans of retirement – again. Indeed, Foyle was originally supposed to hang up his boots at the end of World War II – and series seven – but audiences demanded that he return. This episode was hampered by a little too much scene-setting, but there appears to be life in this old dog yet.

Robson’s Extreme Fishing Challenge, One, 7.30pmIn South Africa, recreational fishing generates more cash than rugby, cricket and football combined. The South Africans clearly take their fishing seriously, which is what makes it the perfect place for Robson Green to challenge the locals at their own game. As is the format for this series, Green takes on five expert fishermen over five rounds in five different locations. Bringing his Uncle Matheson along as his teammate is a cute touch as they battle Tim Babich, South Africa’s No.1 fly fisherman, in Sterkfontein Dam in round one. Later, Green gets up close and personal with a great white shark in Cape Town, and joins a team of commercial fishermen looking for snoek on the ocean. Green’s no Rex Hunt, but he’s a jovial, enthusiastic host who somehow manages to make 10 hours without a bite feel like it would have been a good laugh all the same.

Escape to the Country, 7Two, 8.30pmDon’t we all want one of these? A sea change or tree change? An escape to the British countryside though is a particularly alluring retirement plan, and is part of what makes this show so watchable – it’s vicarious wish fulfilment. Tonight, host Vicki Chapman heads to Nottinghamshire, where house prices are 26 per cent below the national average for a detached property. The featured couple were both born in the shire and want this house – their 14th in 36 years of marriage – to be their last. We’re also treated to a glimpse of the local attractions, and Chapman takes an archery lesson in Sherwood Forest.


Bill Cunningham New York, (2011) ABC1, 10pmBill Cunningham is an eccentric and charming photographer who for what seems forever has recorded fashion on the streets of Manhattan for The New York Times. Despite knowing absolutely everyone in the designer business, Cunningham has been its silent, dispassionate observer – some would even say its soul.This is a fascinating documentary from director Richard Press, a touching portrait of a self-deprecating man many of us would fail to notice, an everyman in basic clothes but, like every human, unique in special ways.The film is an insider’s view of the fashion world, where capitalism has more than successfully found a way to profit from desire (here, mostly female). It is peopled with iconic figures such as Anna Wintour (Vogue), Tom Wolfe (writer), Catherine Deneuve (actress) and Michael Bloomberg (billionaire mayor).Wintour comes across not as the monster the press so likes to label her, but as a highly talented and motivated sweetie. That is because Press is a whiz at letting us see people from a new angle, allowing us to discern what is often obscured. This is a gem.

Key Largo (1948) GEM, 4pmJohn Huston’s Key Largo, about a group of people trapped in a Florida Keys hotel with seedy gangsters during a hurricane, is Hollywood at its best. The cast is superb, especially Edward G. Robinson (as Johnny Rocco) and Claire Trevor (Gaye Dawn). Rocco’s denying Gaye a drink, saying it’s ”’cause you were rotten” after she has been forced to sing, is near unbearably painful.In contrast, the chemistry between Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart) and Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall) is understated and tender. Nora’s ”Only he had it the other way. You were the one on the hill” (you’ll understand) is a classic, while the last shot, where Frank turns to the camera and smiles, remains one of the most startling post-modern moments in cinema.


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New series no joking matter

Serious: Karl Pilkington, a bit of an antidote.Why did you stop doing An Idiot Abroad and tackle something a little more serious in The Moaning of Life?

The last four years has been pretty non-stop, so, to be honest, I am not sure I remember why. If this was a police investigation, I wouldn’t be able to give you the answer. My head is a mess up there. Someone just asked me what places I had visited and I can’t remember. (The answer is Japan, South Africa, Mexico and Taiwan.) I couldn’t do An Idiot Abroad any more. I got tired of staying in shitty places and eating horrible food. I’m 41 now. I was 40 then, and I thought, what am I doing?

The Moaning of Life tackles big questions about cultures and societies. Why those questions and why the search for answers?

This was the next sort of natural thing, in a way. They had the idea of the big topics in life. I suppose during An Idiot Abroad I would still talk about those things, but when it came to editing the program, it wasn’t really the place. In the end, Richard [executive producer Richard Yee] came up with this idea that I was 40 and there’s a lot of big things in life you’re meant to do and I hadn’t done them: I’m not married and I haven’t got kids.

How happy were you with the result?

I think it’s good. I’m not into blowing my own trumpet, because no one’s going to believe me, anyway. If I say it’s really good, they would go, ”Well you would say that – you’re in it”, but I am quite proud of it. I know that I don’t always understand the bigger picture on some of these topics, but I am honest about it. What comes out of my head at the time is what I believe and some people will agree, some won’t, but even take me out of it and look at the things I am witnessing and you will learn something from it. It’s not a joke.

Do you think people presume it’s comedy because you’re delivering it?

I did the stuff with Ricky and Steve [Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant] and, as a result, I think people have struggled understanding me. They go, ”Oh, he’s messing about. It’s a joke.” It’s not a joke. It’s also because it’s nine days away, condensed into 45 minutes. There might be a bit where I sit there doing nothing because I can’t be arsed and I’m not in the mood, or I’m in a mood. It’s a bit like Big Brother in that way. If you watch the edited version, it’s really intense, but if you watch the live feed, it’s like nothing is happening. The most appealing part of this, I think, is that you serve as a bit of an antidote to the hyper-produced television bulls in the travel genre. A lot of that stuff is even done before they’ve got on a plane. It’s written at home. This isn’t planned. There was a time in series two of An Idiot Abroad when they buried me alive in Russia and they thought I’d come out and be livid, and I came out of there and stood there and said, ”That was really relaxing”. That was a great moment for me, because it annoyed them. It was relaxing. I hadn’t been sleeping. It had been a mad trip and suddenly I was underground breathing through a pipe and I was alone. It was quiet and I was happy.

The Moaning of Life airs on ABC1 tonight at 9.30pm and on January 9 at 8.30pm.

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Humphrey B. Bear on backburner

Backburner: Humphrey B. Bear.Bear on backburner

Television icon Humphrey B. Bear made a brief, unannounced appearance on Nine’s annual Carols by Candlelight, but it appears the cuddly mute has become a casualty of progress. In the main program Nine instead featured characters from the Warner Bros-backed Kids WB, prompting fury on Twitter (”I’m not joking @Channel9, where’s the bear?” asked one viewer) and the hashtag #bringbackhumphrey.

Davis to star in next 24

Australian two-time Oscar nominee and Golden Globe and Emmy winner Judy Davis is joining the cast of the US thriller series 24. 20th Century Fox has dusted off the franchise, which aired between 2001 and 2010, and will re-launch the series in the new year. 24: Live Another Day, starring Kiefer Sutherland as Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer, is currently filming in Britain.

Convict’s tale for small screen

The ABC will give the green light to a TV adaptation of the prize-winning Australian novel The Secret River, by Kate Grenville. The book tells the story of a former convict in colonial Australia, and explores the conflict between indigenous Australians and white settlers. Stephen Luby’s and Mark Ruse’s Ruby Entertainment will produce the project for the ABC. It will air in 2014.

More of the bogans

The ABC comedy Upper Middle Bogan will return for a second series. Created by Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope, it follows the story of a young well-to-do woman (Annie Maynard) who discovers she is adopted and is subsequently reunited with her bogan birth family. The series also stars Robyn Nevin, Patrick Brammall, Rhys Mitchell, Glenn Robbins, Robyn Malcolm and Michala Banas.

Nolte for remake

Three-time Academy Award nominee Nick Nolte is joining Australian actress Jacki Weaver and actors Anna Gunn and Michael Pena in the US remake of Broadchurch. The series, which will have the title Gracepoint, is being produced by Shine America and the show’s creator, Chris Chibnall. It will begin filming in January and is expected to screen later in 2014.

Shows head east

The US series Ugly Betty and Everybody Loves Raymond are heading to the Middle East as part of the boom in scripted remakes. The channel OSN will adapt Ugly Betty as Hebal Regal El Ghorab (”Crow’s Foot”). Before its US debut, Ugly Betty was originally an Argentinian telenovela. OSN has also picked up the rights to adapt Everybody Loves Raymond.TV TWEETS

Does anyone know when the next Christmas is so I can plan my Christmas shopping a bit better … Thanx.Larry Emdur (calendar-deprived TV presenter) @larryemdur

‘Shawshank Redemption’ is on Ch.9 right now. Anyone have the 20th in the monthly sweep?Sam Pang (comedian and aspiring TV programmer) @MrSamPang

Just realized I should be shopping for a 1st bra w my daughter about now but I forgottohaveone.Sarah Silverman (forgetful comedienne)@SarahKSilverman

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Green Guide letters

Blissful viewing: Emun Elliott and Joanna Vanderham in The Paradise.LETTER OF THE WEEK

I’m in seventh heaven watching The Paradise on Saturdays on ABC1. There are so many interesting characters in Emile Zola’s story, all brought to life by excellent acting, convincing settings, wonderful costumes and plenty to keep us guessing and eager for more. I also watch the repeat on Sunday, so as not to miss a thing.Evelyn Lawson, KaringalBreathtaking beauty

I am not a fan of vampire stories, but the interpretation of the ballet Sleeping Beauty (ABC1) fascinated me. Bourne’s bittersweet story of Aurora delivers breathtaking choreography and a narrative worthy of the 21st century.Judith Michael, Doncaster EastSpiritless Christmas

Scanning the TV listings for December 25, I had to ask myself, ”Isn’t this Christmas Day?” On Cup Day, I accept airplay will be given to the Cup, even though it doesn’t interest me. So how about something with the word ”Christ” in it, seeing it is a celebration of his birthday? You can enjoy the sheer art form of carols from King’s College, even if you are not a believer. And please, no more lessons on how to be a glutton.Jill Whitford, YackandandahSeasonal disappointment

For years, our family revelled in watching the carols from King’s College Choir, Cambridge, on Christmas Eve on the ABC. A few years ago, this was replaced by carols from various cathedrals around Australia. This year, to my horror, the Christian input of Christmas was abandoned in favour of The Royal Variety Performance with Prince Charles and Dame Edna in the Royal Box. The meaning of the season is to celebrate our heavenly King!Heather Down, North BalwynDull Domain

Although the hosts made it clear that Carols in the Domain is a charity event, raising money for worthwhile causes, much of the event did not feel very Christmassy.Scott McPhee, Briar HillLacking variety

What a bore was Christmas Eve’s Royal Variety show. There was so little variety. It seemed as if it comprised 70 per cent vocals and 25 per cent stand-up comedians, with just the rest variety. Where was all the other talent? Where were the acrobats and magicians?Harry Hauptmann, Mount ElizaRight-royal flop

While the Christmas Eve Royal Variety Performance on ABC1 had its moments, overall, it was more like the Royal Variable Performance.John O’Hara, Mount WaverleyRevive the classics

When are networks going to show some of the old Christmas classics, such as Alistair Sim as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, or the O. Henry trilogy of short stories, including The Gift of The Magi, or even that perennial favourite, Frank Capra’s film, It’s a Wonderful Life?Tom Hunter, SandringhamTalk proper

Puhleese, Big Bash commentary team, can we go back to the time-honoured British and Australian pronunciation of hurricane, with the ”A” sounding as it is in ”abed”? I’ve been saying it that way for nearly 80 years. Pronouncing the ”A” as in ”day” is totally American. Get rid of it.Arthur Comer, SebastopolCreatures great and small

I’m not surprised by the response of Eric Peterson (Letters, 26/12) to the reasonable treatment of possums on ABC’s Possum Wars. The very simple question is, who was here first? Unfortunately, there are still pockets of humanity (ha!) that live under the delusion that they are supreme beings and have the right to deal with the world and its varied (non-bipedal) occupants as they deem fit.Peter Minahan, CockatooFirst fauna

Eric Peterson, I think the possums and other wildlife were there long before your suburbia was built. We have displaced so many of our native animals, it is good to see a few of them hanging on, still.Dave Torr, Hoppers CrossingPatients exploited

Pertaining to Arthur Jarvis’ assertion that I labelled patients on Embarrassing Bodies as ”freaks” (Letters, 19/12), I must point out that I never contended so. I merely outlined how such content does not belong on television; rather, it is something to be discussed in private at the local doctor. Glorifying humiliating illnesses for others to cringe at does not constitute social acceptance.Finn Hardwhaler, FitzroyBring back brain food

I, and many of my older friends, regularly watched Eggheads on the ABC. It is a true knowledge-based program that both entertains and stretches our synapses. Moving this BBC show from 5pm to 5.30am is most unwelcome. It has been replaced by children’s shows, it seems, and they are all day long on ABC3. Surely, we brainiacs could have one regular program among the tinsel and dross at this time of year?David Hood, RichmondIn praise of Macca

While many people appear to dislike Ian ”Macca” McNamara, I think he appeals to many people, particularly in the bush, and often unites people behind noble causes such as buying Australian-made products.Alex Brown, AshburtonMorbid evenings

3AW seems to want to punish its elderly listeners. As if being cut off mid-sentence by Bruce Mansfield on Nightline is not bad enough, we have to visit ”Tombstone Territory” every night. The funeral advertisements seem to have been replaced by ads for tombstones. Can’t the advertising department understand people over 60, probably the demographic of Nightline listeners, do not want to be reminded of death, especially at bedtime?Margo Ashton, Ry

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Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home

Lessons for the future: Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home.ABC1, Wednesday, 8.30pm

Fans of Kevin McCloud – and they are many – know his shtick. He’s an advocate for the importance of design, for how it adds efficiency and beauty – and even meaning – to our lives, especially when properly integrated into the buildings we inhabit.

For 13 seasons his Grand Designs series has tracked, dissected and analysed the efforts of others to build homes. The projects are invariably challenging, outlandish, ambitious, interesting and inspiring. He has shown us that there are life lessons in design and in the determination to follow through to achieve your dreams – yes, it gets a little soppy like that – and he does his darnedest to make us think about the relationship between our lives and our environment.

In Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home (winner of our 2013 Couch Potato award for best overseas documentary series), he extended these themes by tackling his own design-meets-environment project: an eco forest cabin built using only materials and recycled objects found locally. The series combined vision, ingenuity, lashings of mud, explosions, wood, lots of discarded rusty stuff and oodles of philosophical musings about the state of the planet.

Now McCloud returns in a second season to expand on this personal quest; he has transported the shed to a clifftop in West Somerset, perched above a rugged, grey Jurassic coastline. Here he builds on the original concept to transform his off-grid holiday shack into something wackier and wilder using, again, recycled stuff and local materials.

McCloud’s experiment is designed to see whether turning your back on the mad busyness of the modern world for a simpler and more creative life can make you happier. Ably supported by Will Trickett, McCloud’s guerilla engineer extraordinaire, who can make anything from anything and is the dream-to-reality brains of the project, the result is something special.

In this first of four parts the pair test a hazel-twig-and-sheep-bladder-balloon raft on a trip to get to the local pub; experiment with fish oils for their lighting needs; and salvage the oak ribs and planks of a nearby shipwreck to build a cantilevered deck.

It’s entertaining, a little madcap, inspiring and more. There are lessons for the future in McCloud’s do-as-I-do example. As resources come under pressure and transport costs make it uneconomic to source materials from Malaysian rainforests or buy cheap tools from Chinese factories (made from ores shipped in from around the globe), we will increasingly need to look locally, be efficient recyclers and fall back on practices and skills that have atrophied in the age of off-the-shelf consumerism.

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