January 14-20: Including Wild Boys and Ab Fab

by Fiona Rae / 14 January, 2012


Ocean Giants (TV1, 7.30pm). It's quite the week for aquatic thrills (see Frozen Planet, Tuesday): Ocean Giants follows dolphins and whales across the oceans. In the first episode, cameramen Doug Allen and Didier Noirot are chasing the largest creatures ever known to have existed, blue whales. Bonus: Stephen Fry narrates.

Packed to the Rafters (TV1, 8.30pm). A double episode to kick off the new season of Rafters, the family drama that is so popular in Australia that Channel 9 is launching an identikit rival. As the season starts, Ben returns from his road trip with Nathan and tries to be the fun-loving guy he was before Melissa died, and Rita’s arrival at Carbo and Retta’s engagement party is nervously anticipated.


Anderson (TV2, 2.00pm). Is he the male Oprah? CNN’s Anderson Cooper got his own talkshow in September and began by oversharing, according to the New York Times. He interviewed his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, and they choked up about the suicide of his brother, Carter; he shared photos of his holiday in Colombia; he got spray-tanned with Snooki from Jersey Shore. Thrillingly, that episode screens tomorrow afternoon. We begin today with an interview with the parents and boyfriend of Amy Winehouse.

The 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards (Vibe, Sky 007, 2.00pm). We thought he’d burnt his bridges with the “thank God for making me an atheist” comment, but incredibly, Ricky Gervais is returning to host the Golden Globes for the third time. “I don’t think anyone had the right to be offended last year, but they were,” he says. “This year I’m going to make sure their offence is completely justified.” And that is why this festival of congratulation will be worth watching. As always, the sycophantic red-carpet coverage is over on E! channel from noon.

The West Wing (SoHo, Sky 010, 6.40pm weeknights). Aaron Sorkin’s White House wish-fulfilment fantasy gets a run from the very beginning.

Shortland Street (TV2, 7.00pm). The return of Shortie, and the end of the suspense. Who lives and who dies after Hunter’s burglary of the pharmacy went spectacularly, if predictably, wrong? Daniel and Jill were last seen lying in pools of their own blood. Oh Hunter, didn’t you know that the innocent will always pay for your mistakes? It’s a big year for Shortland Street – watch out for 20th anniversary celebrations. In other soap news, Neighbours also returns on TV2 at 6.00pm.

Piha Rescue (TV1, 7.30pm). Back in time to remind us to be careful at the beach. Especially Raglan – where the Piha lifeguards are lending a hand.

Person of Interest (TV1, 9.30pm). Fairly silly thriller-y series created by JJ Abrams (Lost and Fringe) and Jonathan Nolan, brother of Christopher. It stars Michael Emerson – Ben from Lost – as a billionaire who has invented some sort of high-tech jiggery-pokery that identifies potential crimes. He employs Jim Caviezel, an ex-Special Forces and CIA guy (you know the type: he knows kung-fu; his girlfriend died) to investigate before the fact. As we say, fairly silly. Pop the brain in neutral.


Primeval New Zealand (TV1, 7.30pm). If you need computer-animated graphics to go back in time, who ya gonna call? Weta Digital of course, which supplies 3D modelling and images for Primeval New Zealand, a NHNZ-TVNZ doco about how our unique fauna evolved. It features beautiful HD footage of the weird and wonderful creatures that survive today in New Zealand (weta, tuatara, kakapo), as well as CG animations of the amazing birds of the past (moa, Haast's eagle, and an aquatic bird that predated penguins). Peter Elliot ± the go-to guy when it comes to documentary gravitas ± presents, and claims to have some disturbing news about the origins of our national symbol, the kiwi. What, it's from Australia or something? Say it ain't so.

Frozen Planet (TV1, 8.30pm). After Life on Earth, The Living Planet, The Trials of Life, The Private Life of Plants, The Life of Birds, Life in the Undergrowth, Life in Cold Blood, The Blue Planet and Planet Earth, you have to wonder how many more ways there are to slice and dice Earth's natural wonders, but the BBC's Natural History Unit has found one in Frozen Planet. It's a seven-part series narrated by Sir David Attenborough (naturally) that trips the high-def fantastic from the frozen Arctic Ocean to the Antarctic ice-cap. It begins at the North Pole as the sun returns after six months of darkness, and polar bears are courting. In rich Alaskan waters, humpback whales join the largest gathering of sea birds for a feast; in the snowy taiga forest, the largest wolves in the world hunt bison; crystal caverns ring the summit of Erebus … and so on, and so beautifully forth. In the final episode, Attenborough travels to both poles to investigate what rising temperatures mean for the people and wildlife there and why there should be no doubt that we need to change our behaviour now.

Wild Boys (Prime, 8.35pm). If a mark of nationhood is casting off the shame of your beginnings and celebrating your past, criminal warts and all, Australia has come of age. All it does these days is laud, in film and television, its ne’er-do-wells, from Ned Kelly and Tilly Devine to Kate Leigh and “Aussie Bob” Trimbole. How about movies Animal Kingdom and Snowtown? Scary. Plus, the Aussies have been churning out barely distinguishable fictional cop shows for years – when New Zealand can’t even manage a distinguishable one – which is why Wild Boys stands out, for the costumes at least, from the pack. It’s not a cop show, although it is about criminals. A couple of bushrangers in fact, who gad about robbing Cobb & Co stagecoaches and narrowly escaping the ruthless sheriff. It’s like The Dukes of Hazzard in 19th-century New South Wales. There are chases on horseback and in wagons, narrow escapes, explosions, shootouts and a lot of historical inaccuracy. Daniel MacPherson and Michael Dorman play bushrangers Jack Keenan and Dan Sinclair; the new police superintendent in town is Jeremy Sims, who has no compunction about shooting a man in cold blood. He fancies the mayor’s daughter (Go Girl Anna Hutchison in an unflattering top and skirt) and frames her beau. In time-honoured tradition, Jack is involved with local businesswoman Mary Bennett (Zoe Ventoura – Packed to the Rafters’ Melissa), but she knows that waiting around for a bushranger can only lead to heartbreak. Some naysayers in Australia complained about the costumes and the lack of facial hair – and the general lack of muckiness. Deadwood this is not. The series is partly filmed at a pioneer village in Wilberforce, an hour from Sydney. But who cares? This is Aussie myth-making; it almost writes itself.

Big Love (TV1, 11.05pm). It went a little nutty in season four, but its fifth and final season “regains its footing”, said the LA Times: Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) has been elected to the Utah State Senate and revealed that he is a polygamist. Consequently, he finds himself in the legislature with no friends and quite a few enemies, including Speaker of the House Gregory Itzin. At its best, Big Love combines the absurdity and seriousness of a life lived with so many rules – set the PVR. In other returning-US-drama news, new episodes of Criminal Minds begin on Monday at 8.30pm, and the Kathy Bates-starrer Harry’s Law is back on TV1 on Wednesday at 9.30pm.


Embarrassing Bodies (TV2, 8.30pm). The doctors change it up a bit this week by opening a clinic at Birmingham International Airport to see what else returning holidaymakers have picked up apart from a suntan. Drs Christian Jessen and Pixie McKenna are joined by A&E doctor Priya Manickavasagar and dentist James Russell. Gross ailments they deal with include halitosis, a bladder infection, bedbug bites and nasty rashes.

Doctor Who Christmas Special (Prime, 8.30pm). Matt Smith is given full licence to be his Cat-in-the-Hat best in this special penned by Steven Moffat. It’s a riff on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in which a widow (Claire Skinner) and her two children are evacuated to a country house where the Doctor’s idea of decorating is out-of-this-world. Then a portal opens to another, wintry world …

Absolutely Fabulous (TV1, 9.30pm). So TV1 was softening us up with all those old episodes. To mark the 20th anniversary of the series, Jennifer Saunders has written new episodes of Ab Fab where everyone is older but no wiser. It must be the only sitcom ever in which the characters’ ageing easily fits with the absurdity and desperation. Somehow, it works, especially Joanna Lumley as the chemically preserved Patsy, pulling ciggies and spliffs out of her beehive.


American Idol (TV2, 7.30pm). Remember Scotty McCreery? Neither do we. This far away, it seems as if American Idol winners fall back into obscurity once the show is over. And here are some more sacrifices to the altar of public opinion and television ratings – the tuneful and the tuneless lineup for season 11 of American Idol, screening here two days after the US. After some format changes in season 10, this season remains pretty much the same, with Steve Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson returning as judges, and tiny Ryan Seacrest continuing as host.

The Vampire Diaries (TV2, 10.30pm). The angst, the drama, the overwhelming feelings: if there’s one thing that teenage vampire series like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries do right, it’s the heightened emotions of high school. It’s just so real, y’know? And now, oh God, Elena and Stefan have been torn asunder, sorry, apart (this stuff is catching). Stefan is under Klaus’s control, having to kill everything in sight and generally be evil, while Damon, previously the bad brother, broods and tries to keep Elena safe. Plus, Elena’s brother Jeremy is seeing dead people. Specifically, his dead girlfriends. Oh the angst, the drama, etc.
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