Including series finales of Ugly Betty and Nip/Tuck

by Fiona Rae / 26 June, 2010

SATURDAY JUNE 26

Rugby (Sky Sport 1, 7.25pm). The All Blacks' Tri Nations build-up finishes with the second game against Wales in the Steinlager Series, this time at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton. The Tri Nations runs from July to August, and begins with two home games against South Africa, in Auckland on July 10 and Wellington on July 17. In other sports news, the final games of the group stage at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa are early this morning, and the knockout stage begins early Sunday morning.

Kevin McCloud's Grand Tour (TV3, 7.30pm). The Grand Designs presenter goes on "history's equivalent of the gap year", following in the footsteps of young 18th-and-19th-century aristocrats. A tour of the continent was quite the thing, apparently, although unlike those travellers, McCloud limits his interactions with prostitutes to conversation. He begins with classical revival buildings of France and Italy in London, before checking out the originals in Paris and Italy. The rest of the four-part series takes him to Florence, Rome, Naples and Greece and is a perfectly pleasant way to spend an evening, according to the Independent. Easy for them to say, with their cheap flights to Europe; on free-to-air television in New Zealand this will be a tall drink of water in a culture desert.

Gone Too Soon (TV3, 8.30pm). Michael Jackson fans are urging a boycott of Ian Halperin's Gone Too Soon, a documentary about the singer's final days, but the fact is it's screening in more than 50 countries on the same day (wow, TV week's prediction on page 65 really is coming true!), and if there's anything new to reveal about Jackson's demise, it's going to dominate the news for at least a week. Which is a long time in current affairs. Halperin is the author of Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson and famously said in December 2008 that Jackson was in poor health and had six months to live. Jackson died on June 25, 2009. Halperin has put together Gone Too Soon from 300 hours of footage taken inside the Jackson camp. Interviewees include Jackson's manager, chef, personal security guard, trainer, hairstylist, spiritual adviser and attorney. Not surprisingly, no family members are interviewed. To give the evening a slightly Michael Jackson-themed air, at 7.00pm TV3 is screening Stark Raving Dad, the episode of The Simpsons in which Jackson voices a character.

SUNDAY JUNE 27

The Thorn Birds (Vibe 007, 3.00pm). Remember this? An epic tale of forbidden love, as they say, that in 1983 became the second most-watched miniseries of all time (after Roots). On an Australian sheep station, smouldering priest Richard Chamberlain fights his fleshly desire for Rachel Ward's Meggie. The supporting cast includes Barbara Stanwyck, Christopher Plummer, Jean Simmons and the only actual Australian, Bryan Brown.

Ugly Betty (TV2, 5.30pm). Aw, it's the end of the lovely Betty, struck down after just four seasons. Despite those braces coming off, Betty's ratings never went up to ABC's satisfaction, although the network gave the producers enough time to write a conclusion to the show. Reports suggest, however, that things are left open-ended - in an optimistic, Betty sort of way, of course. In other series finale news, Nip/Tuck (TV2, Tuesday, 10.30pm) is nipped and tucked after seven seasons and 100 episodes.

Tamariki Ora: A New Beginning (Maori, 8.00pm). Maori Television takes a different tack for Matariki this year, by highlighting the issue of child abuse. In A New Beginning, Carol Hirschfeld introduces stories of courage and change, highlighting family members who have decided to confront the violence. In the first part tonight, two mothers discuss how they have transformed their lives, and cameras follow members of Starship's child crisis team. It is followed by The Sounds of Hope at 9.10pm, featuring acoustic performances from musicians including Hollie Smith, Warren Maxwell and Che Fu. On Monday night, part two of A New Beginning features more amazing stories, and comment from historian Dame Anne Salmond. Hirschfeld leads a studio discussion with Cabinet minister Paula Bennett, police detective Scott Beard, former children's commissioner Ian Hassall, Manu Caddie from Tairawhiti Men Against Violence and Anglican minister Hone Kaa. Unfortunately, Merata Mita's documentary Saving Grace, scheduled to be part of Tamariki Ora, was unfinished when she died in late May. Maori Television says it will be broadcast at a later date.

50 Years of TV News (TV1, 8.30pm). TVNZ answers the critics with a news retrospective that isn't a quiz show.

Damages (TV1, 10.30pm). Like the title of that movie says: it's complicated, which is probably why viewers didn't stick with Damages. It will be even more difficult now, as TV1 is dropping us back into the action at episode six as Patty (Glenn Close) continues with her battle against a giant petrochemical manufacturer. Meanwhile, Ellen (Rose Byrne) is trying to get evidence that Patty was involved in the murder of her fiancé and has been working with the FBI. What's Timothy Olyphant doing in there? We're not sure, but he looks good doing it.

TUESDAY JUNE 29

River Cottage: Winter's on Its Way (Prime, 7.30pm). Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall dons his woollies and wellies for winter at River Cottage. It's seasonal fare, with chillies, pumpkins, potatoes, seafood, horseradish and mustard on the menu.

WEDNESDAY JUNE 30

Real Life: Is She or Isn't She? (TV1, 9.30pm). NZ On Air's longest documentary project is a five-year study of a small-town boy who becomes a girl. Film-maker Justin Pemberton follows Graham, who changes into Ashleigh over five years, starting with makeup, female hormones and laser hair removal.

FRIDAY JULY 2

Beautiful People (UKTV, 8.30pm). The childhood of Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys, New York, is turned into a sitcom about growing up fabulous in unfabulous Reading, Berkshire. Beautiful People is based on Doonan's memoirs about growing up gay in the 50s, although the action is set in 1997, where 14-year-old Simon (Luke Ward-Wilkinson) has a supportive but bonkers family, a friend called Kyle (known as Kylie) and unsympathetic schoolmates.

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