TV & Radio Tuesday May 10

by Fiona Rae / 10 May, 2011
The British again visit that other country, the past, in Downton Abbey, and the walls between television and film are well and truly breached.


SVU: Special Victims Unit (TV3, 9.30pm). When British actor Jeremy Irons turns up on US network TV you know the barriers between film and television are well and truly breached. Yes, that Jeremy Irons, who plays a creepy sex therapist and the estranged father of a rape victim. Such a delightful show.

Grey’s Anatomy (TV2, 8.30pm). The new series starts next week, but if you’d like to remind yourself where we are now, here’s the terrible two-part episode in which a guy with a gun stomps around Seattle Grace shooting at will. It’s awful. Shocking. But on the other hand, it’s given new impetus to the new season: “Since then, Grey's has gotten funnier, more mature, sexier, and braver,” said Entertainment Weekly, in a photo essay called  5 Reasons We’re Loving This Season.

Downton Abbey (Prime, 8.30pm). In times of calamity, it is usual to turn to that other country, the past. When the present is full of recession, unemployment and falling house prices, the past, with all its comfortable traditions and implacable systems, where everyone knows their place, seems a really nice place to visit. Hence Downton Abbey, a big-budget series that was the most successful costume drama in the UK after Brideshead Revisited. It’s all very Upstairs, Downstairs, if there wasn’t a new version of that already. There’s a gross of servants below catering to the eight family members above at the fictional Downton Abbey, stately home of the Earl and Countess of Grantham. The place is huge, beautiful and under threat from that very Jane Austen of ailments: no boy children. As we begin in 1912, the two male heirs to Downton go down with the Titanic, leaving a distant cousin in Manchester the spoils unless Robert Crawley, the Earl (Hugh Bonne­ville), is willing to “break the entail” and leave everything to his eldest daughter. The slow winds of change are blowing through the abbey’s cavernous rooms, of course. One of the Earl’s three daughters becomes a feminist, campaigning for votes for women; another has an affair with a Turk! A downstairs maid dreams of becoming a secretary, and across the channel, war is brewing. The past wasn’t that simple after all, no matter how hard the Dowager Countess (played with typical imperiousness by Maggie Smith) tries to keep it the same. But never mind all that, it’s the intrigue we’ve come for. Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes, who wrote Gosford Park, has often been occupied with the English class system in his work, and here it’s a glorious excuse for a beautifully directed soap opera.

The Late Show with David Letterman (Prime, 11.20pm). Guests are "The Human Fuse" Brian Miser, with music from Brother.


American Pie Presents: Band Camp (Four, 8.30pm). The franchise that started with an apple-pie indignity and racked up the insults from there. Interesting to note that Tad Hilgenbrinck, Crystle Lightning and Ginger Lynn Allen didn’t launch their careers with this one. Eugene Levy, though, is one hell of a comic actor and really needs to have a word with his agent. (2005) 3
– Diana Balham

Hot Tub Time Machine (Sky Movies, Sky 020, 8.30pm). Is it wrong that we like this silly time travel flick? It knows that it is silly, which is the key – travelling back in time to relive your 80s glory days is so absurd, why not make the time machine a hot tub? It “takes the universal human longing to reimagine and relive the past – which has fueled artists and poets from the Lascaux cave-painters through Proust and Fitzgerald – and reduces it to cheap, foul and thoroughly amoral humor,” says Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir, and these are the things that make Hot Tub Time Machine awesome. (2010)

Silent Wedding (Sky Movies, Rialto 025, 8.30pm). Romania in 1953 was in the grip of Russia and bound to observe protocol when Stalin died. This delightful comedy drama follows the story of a young couple whose wedding is about to take place when their country is forced into mourning – and a ban on speaking – for the leader. Should they go ahead and face arrest or carry on without a word? (2008) 8 – Diana Balham


Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan (Radio New Zealand National, 9.00am). Guests are former District and Youth Court judge Carolyn Henwood about the 5000 children in state care; former head chef at the Ritz Hotel, Michael Quinn; a review of King of the Badgers by Phillip Hensher; the book reading is Finally by David Hill; business correspondent Rod Oram; an interview with Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants; and Denis Welch on media. Info an audio here.

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