November 24-30: Including A Night at the Classic and Pan Am

by Fiona Rae / 24 November, 2012
The inner workings of a comedy club, 1960s airplanes and Bond cars.


Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen (Prime, 7.00pm). Nigella is, so she keeps saying anyway, all about the fun. So one month before Christmas, she has lots of early-prep tips and shortcuts, such as party food for the freezer and an advance Christmas larder. Whatever that is. There’s more Christmas feasting in Rick Stein’s Cornish Christmas (Prime, Tuesday, 9.50pm), in which Stein enjoys wassailing, goose, Cornish beer and ciders, and a banquet.

50 Years of Bond Cars: A Top Gear Special

Pan Am (TV1, 9.35pm). There have been a number of mid-century period dramas coming out of the US in the wake of Mad Men’s success, and almost all of them have failed. Maybe they didn’t have Matthew Weiner’s obsessive attention to detail, or his fabulously subtle storytelling ability. With its instant gratification ethos, network television is never really going to be able to compete with pay-TV’s slow-burn storytelling, and it’s telling that the one series that wasn’t cancelled almost immediately is Magic City, the Starz Network series set in Miami in 1959 (it screened here on SoHo and has been renewed for a second season). The rest, including Swingtown (1970s), The Playboy Club (1961) and Pan Am (1963), have totally split the scene, man. Pan Am, which lasted a whole season, was probably the best of the three – it was created by Jack Orman (ER); The West Wing’s Thomas Schlamme directed the pilot (no pun intended); and it was produced by a former Pan Am flight attendant. The pilot cost US$10 million and includes a lifesize version of a Pan Am 707. It was saying something about women who were looking for adventure, and being a secretary wasn’t going to cut it. Unfortunately, it suffers from what the New Yorker described as “worrisome melodramatic tendencies and a network-TV obviousness”. Too shallow, too soapy. If only it had been made by HBO.


Rugby (Sky Sport 1, Sky 030, 6.05am). On at a better time than the Scotland game at least: the All Blacks play Wales at Millennium Stadium, after thrashing Scotland and – we’re just guessing here – Italy. Wales were stunned by a fired-up Argentina two weeks ago, although they will have a match against Samoa under their belt coming into this game.

The Promise (SoHo, Sky 010, noon). SoHo box-sets this exceptional miniseries about a young woman (Claire Foy) who tries to uncover what happened to her grandfather while he was stationed in Pale-stine at the end of World War II. Armed with his journal, she searches for the Arab family with whom he lived, and the action flicks between 1945 Palestine, as British troops are leaving, and the present, as Foy moves – blunders, really – between the disputed areas, including a scary visit into Gaza. The four-part series was filmed entirely in Israel, and is written and directed by Peter Kosminsky, who previously directed a BBC series about British peacekeepers in Bosnia.

The Zoo (TV1, 7.00pm). The Zoo returns just as we were wondering what to do with the kids during the summer hols. How convenient. Tonight, a pregnant giraffe; shore plovers are released on Motutapu Island; and two cheetahs go for a walkabout. Under supervision, we hasten to add.

Babytrapped (Vibe, Sky 007, 7.30pm). Observational programme from the UK about a subject that usually only comes up in TV drama: what happens when a pregnancy occurs in the early stages of a relationship? Nita and Liam had been going out for just a few weeks when Nita fell pregnant, sparking a host of complicated decisions and consequences.

New Zealand’s Got Talent (TV1, 7.30pm). Nearly the end of the journey and it’s a two-hour show to make room for the top 12 acts. One thing’s for sure: there’ll be tears before bedtime.

The Frankincense Trail (Living, Sunday Sky 008, 8.30pm). With Christmas approaching, it seems appropriate that we go on a journey in The Frankincense Trail, a four-part BBC series that stretches from Oman to Israel. Presenter Kate Humble travels a 3000km trade route that was used well before the birth of Christ, when the aromatic resin frankincense was more valuable than gold. These days, Humble is able to buy 90kg of the stuff, which she takes with her on the journey, for around $580. In the first episode, she starts in Oman, walking with the Al Mahri tribe and their 300 camels along the original trail through the Empty Quarter desert. In Yemen, frankincense is used at the ritual blessing of a newborn baby, and then it’s on to a camel-jumping contest before crossing into Saudi Arabia. In the remaining three episodes, Humble continues her visit to Saudi Arabia, and moves on to Egypt, Jordan and Israel.

Offspring (TV1, 9.30pm). Another season finale, and neurotic Nina is, typically, struggling to express herself in a clear and concise manner. She needs a Nina Translate App. A fancy dress party for her birthday makes things extra-specially mad, and there may be some resolution with Patrick. Fear not, fans, Offspring has been renewed for another two seasons.


High Country Rescue (TV1, 8.00pm). Disaster telly gets another variant, although this new series has way better scenery. Cameras follow search-and-rescue volunteers and police in remote areas of the South Island as they save mountaineers, walkers, hunters or anyone else who gets into trouble on high peaks or in low bush.


50 Years of Bond Cars: A Top Gear Special (Prime, 8.30pm). If you thought we have been subjected to a mountain of publicity for the new Bond film, pity the poor Englanders who have also had 50 Years of Bond retrospectives all over the shop. Bond girls, Bond movie posters, Bond style, and Top Gear gets on board with this admittedly worthy addition. Richard Hammond is a very excited hamster as he joyrides through the film series’ best driving moments, plus there are interviews with Roger Moore, Daniel Craig, stuntmen and directors. There’s some fun trivia, too, such as the fact that Toyota had to make its 2000GT coupe (used in You Only Live Twice) into a convertible so Sean Connery could fit into it.

Inside Child Poverty – A Special Report (TV3, 9.35pm). TV3 repeats Bryan Bruce’s hard-hitting documentary in which he highlights our shameful record in child health. More than 25,000 children were admitted to hospital in 2010 for respiratory infections, most caused by overcrowded living conditions. Doctors are seeing such diseases as rheumatic fever and scabies, which have largely been eliminated from European countries. Bruce visits one of the country’s poorest and sickest areas, East Porirua, where a decile one school provides 1000 breakfasts a week. He also visits families living in mouldy, cold homes they cannot afford to heat. To keep warm at night, it is standard practice to all sleep in one room, a recipe for the spread of disease. Overcrowding, says Michael Baker, associate professor of health at Otago Medical School, is the main risk factor for meningitis, rheumatic fever and tuberculosis. Just to rub it in, Bruce visits Sweden, where health services have been integrated into the school system, and where healthcare is free up to the age of 18.

The Other Side of Jimmy Savile (TV1, 9.40pm). Revelations about British TV presenter Jimmy Savile’s apparent abuse of girls and young women, sometimes on the premises of the BBC, have been shocking enough – and made worse by a culture of turning a blind eye. This ITV documentary, which was broadcast in early October, broke the story. Former detective Mark Williams-Thomas interviews five women who were abused by Savile, and afterwards, many more have come forward. It was just the beginning. Since then, three men (including Gary Glitter) have been arrested, and the BBC is in crisis after the resignation of its director-general.


A Night at the Classic

A Night at the Classic (TV1, 10.05pm). TV1 reclaims some of the comedy ground it has lost to TV3 in recent years with a second series of A Night at the Classic. The local late-night gem roams around the Classic Comedy Club on Auckland’s Queen St, going both front-of-house and behind-the-scenes, a bit like a stand-up version of The Office. The idea is to show how a comedy club works and what happens in the green room, although it is overlaid with an ironic comedy patina. Stand-up comics play heightened versions of themselves backstage before going on stage. In the first season, for example, musical comedy duo Mrs Peacock were allegedly always being mistaken for Flight of the Conchords; Jeremy Elwood played up to his “serious” reputation by being a miserable bastard. Although most of the on-stage performances are real, there were set-ups: some comics were asked to go on and “die”, and some of the audience members were actors, pushing the story along. Brendhan Lovegrove, who anchors proceedings, is particularly brave, portraying himself as desperate to be famous and jealous of anyone with more success. For season two, that theme continues and, says Lovegrove, the show will have “more of a story holding it all together”. His “character”, for example, is still a try-hard and “I’m trying to be in a television show that’s launching a network, and I hear that other people have got it and I’m very disappointed. I think the storyline helps a great deal because it gives it an end and at the end there’s a huge climax. “We loved doing season one, and I think that anything we did wrong we’ve ironed out, so now with season two it will be a lot more risqué for the audience and there’ll be a whole new set of comics.” In general, the comedians have taken to “acting” in A Night at the Classic like ducks to water. “It’s sort of in between reality and acting, isn’t it?” says Lovegrove. “Most comics become relatively good in front of a camera simply because of the work we do, and when you’re doing material four, five, six … even 20-30 times, you are ­actually acting to an extent.” The line-up for season two includes Raybon Kan, Ewen Gilmour, Urzila Carlson, Justine Smith and Jarrod Christmas. “I think we took a lot of risks,” says Lovegrove. “We did some things that haven’t been seen on New Zealand television before; we’ve tackled a few taboo subjects.”
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