March 31-April 6: Including The New Old and Miss Marple

by Fiona Rae / 31 March, 2012


Game of Thrones (SoHo, Sky 010, noon). Season one of SoHo “box sets” of fantasy epic Game of Thrones this weekend, ahead of the April 16 launch of season two. About which we will only say: dragons!

Weekend Murders: Miss Marple (Prime, 8.40pm). A new series of Miss Marple begins with the classic Agatha Christie story The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side. Julia McKenzie is Christie’s senior sleuth who, despite a twisted ankle, must try to solve the murder of the garrulous Heather Badcock (Caroline Quentin). She is poisoned at a glamorous benefit thrown by the famously temperamental movie star Marina Gregg (Lindsay Duncan). Joanna Lumley plays Dolly Bantry, the previous owner of the stately pile bought by Gregg and her husband, and Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) is Inspector Hewitt. In all likelihood, Christie based her book on the real story of American actress Gene Tierney (The Ghost and Mrs Muir), who contracted German measles while pregnant and whose daughter was born severely disabled.


Netball (Sky Sport 3, Sky 032, 7.00pm). The ANZ Championship netball league is under way, and the first matches featuring New Zealand teams are this weekend: today the Northern Mystics meet the Central Pulse at the Trusts Stadium in Auckland; tomorrow, Southern Steel and Waikato/BOP Magic meet at the ILT Velodrome in Invercargill (Sky Sport 1, Sky 030, 7.30pm). A New Zealand team is yet to win this tough competition. Maybe this will be the year.

Terror at Sea: The Sinking of the Concordia (Prime, 8.45pm). "Literally, it felt exactly like the Titanic," says one of the rescued passengers of the cruise liner Costa Concordia. Really? They didn't have cellphones in 1912, or infrared footage of passengers climbing down rope ladders, or even recordings of the coastguard telling the captain to "go up that rope ladder, get on that ship". All these things feature in this documentary about the cruise ship that ran aground off Italy's west coast on January 13. It screened in the UK on January 30, but despite the quick turnaround, "they've done an excellent job of putting this film together so quickly", said the Guardian. Interviews, computer graphics, expert testimony, recordings and survivors' mobile phone footage put together a picture of the grounding and partial sinking of the Concordia. The doco explores how such a thing could happen in these modern times, but makes it a story about the people ± and has you wondering just how you would have reacted in such a scary, dark and confusing situation.


The Force (TV1, 8.00pm). A new series of The Force, not that you can tell. Tonight on Western Australia’s mean streets, an annual police operation to find and destroy cannabis crops hidden in the bush and forests, and thieves target an ATM in broad daylight.

Dr Zhivago (Vibe, Sky 007, 8.30pm). Keira Knightley was described as a “relative unknown” by the Guardian when she starred in this miniseries version of the Boris Pasternak novel. It is, inevitably, sexed-up by adapter Andrew Davies, who was writing every costume drama on telly in Britain at the time (2002). The mini-series is less romantic than David Lean’s 1965 classic starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie (tagline on the movie poster: “A love caught in the fire of revolution”), but Davies is able to expand on the backgrounds of Lara (Knightley) and Yuri Zhivago (Hans Matheson), and Sam Neill as Victor Komarovsky is “smooth and sinister”, said the Daily Mail. Hugh Bonne­ville, Celia Imrie and Bill Paterson also star.


MasterChef New Zealand (TV1, 7.30pm). There are just 11 contestants left, or should we say onze, because tonight is French night. The MasterChef 11 receive a hamper of French food and wine, but it’s no picnic: they’ll be cooking a three-course meal for 100 guests at Auckland bistro La Cigale. The two winners will receive a trip to Australia for a masterclass with chef Alla Wolf-Tasker. Wolf-Tasker opened Lake House in 1984 and it is regarded as one of Australia’s best country restaurants and boutique hotels.

Go Girls (TV2, 8.30pm). Go Girls is kind of fun and all that, but where is it going? Perhaps backwards: Olivia (Esther Stephens) is reunited with former flame Joel (Johnny Barker) tonight, and Leo (Leighton Cardno) is het up about his scary ex-girlfriend Ellie.

The Wire (SoHo, Sky 010, 9.40pm). Only one of the best TV series ever, so it’s time to find out why if you haven’t already bought the box set. Season one concerns the Baltimore Police Department (including Dominic West and Wendell Pierce) versus the Barksdale drug empire (including Wood Harris and Idris Elba). The language and the sheer number of characters can be disconcerting; but just as with David Simon’s latest series, Treme, you have to be patient.

The Smartest Machine on Earth (TVNZ 7, 10.05pm). Big Blue takes another leap in The Smartest Machine on Earth, in which an IBM computing system is built to compete against humans on the game show Jeopardy! The documentary examines the four-year process of building "Watson" (it is named after IBM founder Thomas J Watson), which has a brain size of 2400 home computers and a database equivalent to 10 million documents. It's all about the Holy Grail of Artificial Intelligence, although we might like to ponder the fact that Watson needs "10 million refrigerators' worth of hardware" and "a million lines of new code", according to team leader David Ferrucci, to pick categories and answer such questions as: "It's a four-letter word for backtalk." All a human needs is a brain. However, Jeopardy! was the challenge, not the end goal, Ferrucci says on the PBS website, and Watson's ability to look at huge volumes of text and pull out the precise information is the exciting thing. "We've already started looking at applying this technology to a number of different areas," he says, "including medicine and healthcare as well as text support, publishing and finance."


Sons of Anarchy (TV3, 9.30pm). Next to Breaking Bad, one of the most intense shows on television – especially this season, in which King Clay (Ron Perlman) and Prince Jax (Charlie Hunnam) continue their power struggle and the club implodes because Clay has convinced the guys to partner up with a Mexican drug cartel. One storyline is also skirting around the issue of racism in the biker clubs – patched member Juice (Theo Rossi) is being squeezed for information, otherwise the sheriff will reveal that his father is black. Last week, Juice attempted suicide. To be or not to be, indeed.


The Field of Blood (Vibe, Sky 007, 9.30pm). It’s the 1980s and not in a good way in this adaptation of Denise Mina’s first “Paddy Meehan” novel. Young Paddy, played by Jayd Johnson, works at a Glasgow newspaper and dreams of being more than, as the foul-mouthed editor (David Morrissey) puts it, the “fat tart who makes the coffee”. She becomes involved in the case of a murdered child, but it turns out she may have a family connection with the boy charged with the crime. The adaptation “retains the gutter wit of Mina’s original,” said the Independent, “and the period grot of its setting – a newspaper office where the union rep is still a force to be reckoned with and the closest you get to an internet search is a folder packed with yellowing cuttings”. Period details include Paddy’s fad diet of grapefruit and eggs, and Morrissey’s brown waistcoat, wide tie and beard. The two-parter will be worth seeing for Morrissey’s performance alone, but when the cast also includes Peter Capaldi, it’s a slam-dunk.


The Sitting (TVNZ 7, 7.30pm). Singer-songwriter Greg Johnson and creator of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Richard O’Brien are the sitters on The Sittingtonight. Artist Marty Welch (winner of the 2012 Adam Portraiture Award) talks with his subjects while making a first sweep, and then the portrait is finished in his studio. As with Extreme Makeover, there’s the big reveal at the end, but being New Zealanders, the sitters are all too polite to say they don’t like it.

The New Old (TVNZ 7, 9.30pm). With any luck, after the plug is pulled in June, TVNZ 7 will live on in cyber­space, and future media consumers will turn to their mobile communication and entertainment devices, or the chip implanted in their heads, to get an idea of what public service television once looked like in New Zealand. Gosh, they were nimble, informative and thrifty back then, they might say after downloading The GravyNew ArtlandThe Good WordMedia 7 or Talk Talk. (But I would say that, wouldn’t I?) And here’s a new programme that will give them a taste of what was happening in 2012, when the old is updated to be new again and new stuff looks like it came from the past. Hence The New Old, presented by Wallace Chapman (above), whom you may know from another TVNZ 7 gem,Back Benches. “I’m something of an everyman,” Chapman told us in January. “I’m a true Aquarian. It’s not just politics for me.” And so he’s off around the country finding old stuff that is new again, such as craft beers, the reopening of lovely old suburban cinemas, the boom in gardening and baking, bespoke suits, and lawn bowling. Beards? Hopefully. In the first episode this week, Chapman looks at craft brewing and, in surely the most supreme example of the “new old”, samples a recreation of Captain Cook’s first-ever Kiwi brew from the original 18th-century recipe. The New Old is also a chance to dig around TVNZ’s extensive archives for quaint gems from the past, as is another TVNZ 7 series, Hindsight (TVNZ 7, Tuesday, 9.05pm). It’s not just a look back – presenter Damian Christie examines an issue with the benefit of, as you may have guessed, hindsight. We have a feeling there will be plenty of looking back on the decision to close down TVNZ 7 in much the same way.
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