July 7-13: Including The Slap and the final of House

by Fiona Rae / 07 July, 2012


House (TV3, 9.30pm). The final episode ever of House is called Everybody Dies, which sounds ominous for a series about a nihilistic genius who ruins everything he touches. Eight seasons is quite enough, but still, it’s that familiarity that makes it difficult to believe there will be no more House, ever. No more unnecessary and cruel testing of patients, no more psychological torture of junior doctors, and no more Greg House being plain old fascinating and brilliant. “We never do happy endings, but we also try not to simply do miserable endings. Bittersweet is the most you can hope for from us,” teased showrunner David Shore, who wrote and directed the episode earlier this year.


Sunday Theatre – New Zealand Season: Billy (TV1, 8.30pm). It was one of the highest-rating local programmes last year, so why wouldn’t you screen it again? This biopic of Billy T James is almost controversial in its uncontroversial-ness, but still there’s good work from Tainui Tukiwaho as Billy, and Morgana O’Reilly (who recently starred in the excellent Safe House), as his wife, Lynn.

John Adams (SoHo, Sky 010, 8.30pm). Quite old in tele­vision years, but then we didn’t have SoHo in 2008. Based on the book by David McCullough, this seven-part miniseries tells the story of the second President of the United States, a lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist who assisted Thomas Jefferson in drafting the Declaration of Independence. Paul Giamatti plays Adams, and the wonderful Laura Linney is his wife, Abigail. Stephen Dillane is Jefferson, David Morse plays George Washington and Tom Wilkinson is Benjamin Franklin. The series won four Golden Globes, and 11 Emmys – more than any other miniseries.

Hammond Meets Moss (Prime, 9.35pm). Top Gear’s Richard Hammond and motor-racing legend Stirling Moss have something in common: near-death car crashes, and in this programme the pair sit down to discuss their experiences. For both, their brains took much longer to heal than the rest of them, and there is medical information about brain injury as well as footage of their accidents.

Wounded (TV1, 10.25pm) A Bafta-winning two-part doco that follows two young British soldiers who suffered grievous injuries in Afghanistan. Nineteen-year-old Ranger Andy Allen lost both legs and had his eyes badly burnt by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol in Helmand Province; Lance Corporal Tom Neathway lost both legs and an arm moving a booby-trapped sandbag. The documentary is the first time the Ministry of Defence in the UK allowed television access to wounded soldiers, and it’s the injured men’s stoicism that is probably the most extraordinary thing, especially that of Neathway, who jokes that he never used his left arm much anyway. “I was slightly annoyed for about 10 minutes, not long,” he said in a radio interview much later, “It’s gone, it’s not going to come back, so there’s no point dwelling on it – you may as well just crack on with things, and get on with it.” Neathway has “cracked on”; at the time of that interview he had been skiing and was planning a sky-dive, but this is after 15 major operations at Birmingham’s Selly Oak Hospital and lengthy rehabilitation in which he learnt to walk with prosthetic legs. The younger soldier, Andy Allen, is less optimistic; on arrival in Birmingham he is kept under heavy sedation for three weeks and there is a possibility he might be blind. However, he, too, makes the long journey towards recovery, heroically aided by his pregnant girlfriend.


Unforgettable (TV1, 8.30pm). Oh, that title’s asking for it, isn’t it? Turns out this new drama was nearly forgotten by American network CBS, which cancelled it after one season, although it was reported recently that the network was in talks to bring it back (temporary amnesia, then). Poppy Montgomery (Without a Trace) is the latest cop with a quirky ability – hers is a photographic memory, but there’s one thing she can’t remember: the day her sister was murdered. Of course. After being out of the force for a while, she is reunited with her ex-boyfriend and partner, played by Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck), and the crime-solving begins.


David Jason: The Battle of Britain (History, Sky 073, 7.30pm). The British actor  meets some of the remaining survivors of the battle in the summer of 1940 in which Hitler’s air forces were routed. Something like 2500 German planes were pitted against a measly 600 British aircraft, whose pilots became known as “the few”. Jason also meets some of “the many”; the men and women behind the scenes, and he has the opportunity to fly in a Spitfire.

Postcard from Afghanistan with Mike King (TV1, 8.30pm). Comedian Mike King packs up his old kitbag and heads to one of the worst war zones in the world for a spot of troop entertaining. He visits Bagram Airbase, a Russian tank graveyard, and a palace that belongs to the former Afghan Queen in Kabul.

The Fades (UKTV, Sky 006, 9.20pm). Supernatural fun from a former writer of Skins and Shameless, so you know it’s going to be cool kids and clever, knowing dialogue, probably not unlike Misfits. Teenager Paul (Iain De Caestecker) can see dead people – the Fades – who are not best pleased about their situation, and he finds himself in a conflict between the Fades and the living. The six-part series also stars Daniela Nardini as a badass vicar, and it was the surprise winner of the 2012 Drama Series Bafta.

GCB (TV2, 9.30pm). Grant Bowler guest-star alert!


The Slap (TV3, 8.30pm). Not every aspect of an entire society can be mirrored in one tele­vision drama, but The Slap, a deft eight-part adaptation of the book by Christos Tsiolkas, gives it a damn fine go. Each episode focuses on a different character as the events following the disastrous slap of the title unfold. The incident occurs at the 40th birthday barbecue of Hector (Jonathan LaPaglia): one of the adults smacks someone else’s four-year-old son. It’s a touchstone for the wider issues of race and class (the slapper is Greek Australian, the slappee and his parents are Anglo Aussies), parenting and intergenerational attitudes. Rosie (Melissa George), the mother of the boy, calls the police, and friends and families divide. Tsiolkas is addressing what he believes is a moral slide in Australian society. “When I started writing this novel, it was during a time when this country was doing the most abject and awful things to refugee communities that had been partly devastated by two wars we as a nation were involved in,” he told the Listener in a 2009 interview. “The refugees weren’t being put behind bars in the desert at a time that Australia was suffering an economic collapse – it was done at a time when we were the wealthiest we’ve ever been.” He also drew on his own experiences as a Greek Australian growing up in Melbourne. “If I had talked back or had done something wrong, it was fine for my uncles or my aunts to give me a slap or a smack”. In the series, Hector’s father, Manolis (Lex Marinos), represents this generation: he cannot understand why the families are falling apart and struggles with the selfishness of younger people. Harry (Alex Dimitriades), the brute who hit the boy, is the new Australia: brash, self-made, successful; he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. On the other hand, Rosie and Gary (Anthony Hayes), the parents of the indulged victim, need to step up a bit, too. “What do I think about Harry slapping Hugo? He should never have done it,” said Tsiolkas. “And I think it’s because Harry doesn’t know how to control his anger and has never been taught how to control his anger; nevertheless, I don’t think the parents of that child should have gone to the police.”


Breaking Bad (Four, 10.30pm). Oh, so they were just teasing us with last week’s finale, were they? Four rolls straight into Breaking Bad’s season four, the awesomest season yet. I know, I know, it’s difficult to believe it could get any awesomer. Or that we could misuse the word “awesome” quite so often. Walter White’s transition to Mr Black is now almost complete, but a change has come over Skyler White (Anna Gunn), too. She shows just what a badass she can be this season as well. More of Gus Fring’s background is revealed as he goes to war with the cartel across the border, and Jesse steps out from behind Walt’s shadow. Series creator Vince Gilligan describes season four as a “13-episode chess game” between Gus (Giancarlo Esposito, who has most recently been starring in Once Upon a Time) and Walt. Walt is also “getting into emotional danger, exposing his ego and his hubris”, Bryan Cranston told us in an online interview earlier this year.


Glee (TV3, 7.30pm). We used to care; now, not so much. Thanks, Glee, for making us feel fickle. Perhaps it is time for a new direction (sorry), and in the season finale, some of the crew are graduating and leaving McKinley High. But who will it be, friends of Glee, who will it be?

The Savoy (Prime, 8.30pm). A two-hour commercial for the swankiest hotel in London, said the Independent, about this two-part behind-the-scenes doco of the obscenely expensive Savoy Hotel refit. Nevertheless, the numbers are impressive: the refit cost-per-room is $1.5 million in our money; 28,000 people apply for 600 jobs; the reopening was delayed a year, at a cost of $1.3 million per week.

Jono and Ben at Ten (TV3, 10.00pm). Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce, together at last. The presenters of The Jono Project and Wanna-BEn stick their respective comedy series in a blender and pulse: news-movies-TV-music-ads-internet-sports. Nice to see young people using their time productively, isn’t it?
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