February 9-15: Including Holy Flying Circus and Once Upon a Time

by Fiona Rae / 31 January, 2013
A new breed of British comedians and actors, plus the revisionist fairy tale returns.


Cricket (Sky Sport 1, Sky 030, 6.30pm). A glimmer of one-day hope shone through the dark clouds of test-match despair after the Black Caps’ series win in South Africa. The team now face an England tour at home, starting with tonight’s Twenty20 match at Eden Park.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (TV3, 8.30pm). Ted Danson is probably the most interesting thing about the show these days; after 12 seasons, what more is there? He’s showing some emotional range in tonight’s season 13 opener as he continues to search for his kidnapped granddaughter.


Sunday (TV1, 7.00pm). The return of Sunday with, as widely predicted, a half-hour format. Feel free to lament the state of current affairs on New Zealand television. Also returning this week are 20/20 (TV2, Thursday, 9.30pm),
Good Morning (TV1, Monday, 9.00am) and 60 Minutes, which has been snapped up by Prime (Monday, 9.35pm).

MasterChef, Sunday

MasterChef New Zealand (TV1, 7.30pm). If 2012 taught us anything, it was that New Zealanders like watching New Zealanders do stuff on telly; expect even more local versions of format shows in 2013. New Zealand’s Got Talent, The X Factor NZ and The Block NZ are going to be big, and TV1 is not going to miss out on those delicious, delicious ratings for MasterChef New Zealand. So here we go again – season four of the cooking competition. Yes, four. Here’s a fun game: see if you can name the past three winners.

Packed to the Rafters and House Husbands (TV1, 8.30pm and 9.30pm). The Rafters return, which is about the only interesting thing to say about this old Aussie drama. New Aussie drama House Husbands, on the other hand, comes with high praise from critics across the Ditch, and good ratings, too. The title’s a dead giveaway – it features four blokes who are looking after kids while their partners work. You’ll recognise Gary Sweet, but the surprise is Gyton Grantley, who was evil Carl Williams in Underbelly, but here plays a gay man helping to raise his partner’s niece.


The 2013 British Academy Film Awards (UKTV, Sky 006, 10.00am). The British get their turn at awards glory, although it’s becoming increasingly difficult to delineate between Hollywood and Brollywood – nominees for best film include Lincoln, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. Poor old Daniel Craig didn’t make it into the best-actor category for Skyfall, either, although Javier Bardem and Judi Dench are nominated in supporting roles. The Hobbit has three technical nominations (sound, visual effects, makeup and hair), but it looks to be Lincoln’s night – it has 10 nominations in all; Les Misérables and Life of Pi each have nine.

The Doctors and The Je Probst Show (Prime, noon and 12.55pm weekdays). Prime launches new lifestyle shows to rival the likes of Dr Phil and Jeremy Kyle, and The Doctors has not one, but four physicians. Take that, Dr Oz! An ER doctor, a gynaecologist, a plastic surgeon and a paediatrician have advice and information. Then, Survivor’s Jeff Probst gets to sit down for once in his own talk show. It includes a “guys on the couch” segment, in which Probst and a panel of blokes answer questions from women.

The Following (TV1, 9.30pm). If there’s another thing that 2012 taught us, it’s that horror is the next big thing. Thank you, American Horror Story, although Scream and Vampire Diaries creator Kevin Williamson does not do the Ryan Murphy camp thing: The Following is grisly, gory and spooky. On the other hand, it stars Kevin Bacon (who must have been inspired by wife Kyra Sedgwick’s television success) and James Purefoy (Rome). The latter plays a serial killer who murdered in homage to his literary hero, Edgar Allan Poe. Although behind bars, he is able to get messages to his disciples who leave Poe clues at their crime scenes. Bacon is the troubled (of course) alcoholic (naturally) agent who is drawn back in, and Justified’s Natalie Zea is the woman loved by both men.


Revenge (TV2, 8.30pm). The return of the series that might be called Cliffhanger, for its sheer profusion of plotlines. Emily Thorne aka Amanda Clarke (Emily VanCamp) is still on her quest to bring down the people who framed her father and had him killed in prison, but a new twist emerged at the end of season one: Emily’s mother is still alive. Then there’s the apparent death of evil queen of the Hamptons Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) in a fiery plane crash. Like any good melodrama, the details are way too complicated to explain, but as long as the show can keep its storylines in order (and a decent level of snark in the script), it’s a delicious ride.


The Big Bang Theory and 2 Broke Girls (TV2, 8.30pm and 9.00pm). 2 Broke Girls we can do without, but Theory always finds ways to amuse. As the sixth season begins, Howard is on the International Space Station (cue some nifty floating in space from Simon Helberg), but even there he can’t get away from his mother.

Holy Flying Circus
Holy Flying Circus, Thursday


Once Upon a Time (TV2, 8.30pm). The surprise network hit of last year in the US, which gives Lost writers Edward Katsis and Adam Horowitz more leverage to spin extra CGI gold into their revisionist fairy tale. The pair don’t mind mixing and matching their mythology, either – in season two, characters as diverse as Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Mulan and Dr Frankenstein turn up. You may remember that, thanks to Robert Carlyle’s Rumplestiltskin, the residents got their memories back at the end of season one, but alas, this does not mean happily ever after.

Sometimes – quite often, probably – fiction tells the truth better than the truth. If you can follow that logic, you will very much enjoy Holy Flying Circus (UKTV, Sky 006, Thursday, 8.30pm). As is appropriate, it is a thoroughly irreverent comedy about the furore that ensued on the release of Monty Python’s Life of Brian in 1979.
Christians largely leave the protesting to Muslims these days, but back then, offended Americans ignited a controversy that the Pythons hadn’t expected. The fi lm was banned in Ireland and Norway, and in the UK, the Catholic Film Monitoring Office deemed it a sin to see it, and 39 local authorities imposed restrictions on it.

Naturally, Life of Brian was a box-office success (canny marketing for the film read “So funny it was banned in Norway”). It was the most popular British film in the US in 1979, and was the fourth-highest grossing film of that year in the UK. Writer Tony Roche (best known for The Thick of It and its film spin-off In the Loop) could have written a straight story, but instead Holy Flying Circus plays out almost – almost – as an extended Python sketch. It opens with a farting Jesus, followed by scrolling text that reads “The year is 1979, and big chunks of scrolling text are still all the rage …”

From there, the comedy is a silly walk through the lead-up to that now-historic television confrontation between the Bishop of Southwark and Malcolm Muggeridge on the one hand, and Michael Palin and John Cleese on the other. Along the way, there are many meta deviations, including frequent asides into Terry Gilliam’s animated, imaginative ramblings; Darren Boyd as John Cleese explaining to camera why he’s playing himself as Basil Fawlty; and Michael Palin (Charles Edwards) and Terry Jones (Rufus Jones) playing it straight-faced as a married couple – Jones as squeaky-voiced “Spam!” housewife.

It is slightly disturbing that there are a new breed of British comedians and actors who look almost exactly like members of Monty Python in their younger days, but the performances on the whole are terrific. Edwards, especially, accurately gets the Palin twinkle. Holy Flying Circus is not all jolly japes of course, it’s also a discussion about censorship, free speech and the role of comedy, amid knowing nods towards religion, the BBC and the right to protest. With rude jokes. Bless.

Rev, Friday


Rev (UKTV, Sky 006, 8.30pm). Ralph Fiennes liked this delightful comedy so much he got himself a guest role. It’s a worthy successor to Father Ted and The Vicar of Dibley. Tom Hollander gives a lovely performance as a country vicar trying to cope in a thoroughly urban parish.


On February 11, it will be 23 years since Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in the Western Cape of South Africa, where he had spent three years of a 27-year incarceration. Miracle Rising: South Africa and Nelson Mandela (History, Sky 073, Tuesday, 8.30pm) looks at the end of apartheid in South Africa and the transition to democracy under Mandela’s leadership of the ANC. It was a troubled four years before the first democratic elections in 1994, and the programme covers the negotiations between Mandela and President FW de Klerk, which took place against a backdrop of a number of violent incidents, including the assassination of an ANC leader. It also covers the Truth & Reconciliation Commission and reports on the behind-the-scenes events of the elections.

Britain had long since lost its grip on South Africa by the time Mandela came to power, but how did a nation that once oversaw a great deal of the world lose its potency? The Fall of the British Empire (History, Sky 073, Monday, 9.30pm) looks at the “slow decay” of the empire, which began just a few years after Queen Victoria died in 1901. As the programme suggests, it was not a sudden fall, but “countless small strands of events”, not least that the dominions of New Zealand, Australia, Canada and South Africa were independent nation states that looked after their own affairs. The three-part series is pretty much a straight history lesson and features very early newsreel footage.

Perhaps as an adjunct, The Last Explorers (History, Sky 073, Saturday, 8.30pm) is a four-part BBC series in which archaeologist, historian and author Neil Oliver follows in the footsteps of four Scottish explorers who helped to shape empire and the world. The explorers are David Livingstone, who took his moral mission to Africa; William Speirs Bruce, who set out to conquer Antarctica; John Muir, the father of the modern conservation movement; and Thomas Blake Glover, a rogue trader who helped the samurai.
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