TV Weekby Fiona Rae
Good on the eye.
===SATURDAY DECEMBER 30===
The Urban Chef (TV1, 7.00pm). Reviewing this programme, notoriously cutting critic A A Gill wondered why we needed another Jamie Oliver. Oliver Rowe, who fronts this restaurant-challenge-reality series has, said Gill, "a TV persona so like Jamie Oliver's, they could only be bothered to change one of his names". Gill went on to trash the concept of sourcing local produce from an area within reach of the London Underground. But there Rowe goes, setting up a restaurant in King's Cross, on a quest to find olive oil and fish in London. Mad.
Antiques Roadshow (TV1, 7.35pm). What can you say about the show that's practically an antique itself, having been running for 27 years and showing no sign of stopping? Michael Aspel returns with the original, and best, version of the "detective story, gameshow and history lesson" - and you can thank the holiday season for its restored timeslot.
===NEW YEAR'S EVE===
Child of Our Time (TV1, 7.30pm). Whether these kids are getting really sick of Dr Robert Winston popping up every year to do tests on them is not known, but in their sixth year, the series looks at how children learn to be moral beings, how and why we learn new things, competition and co-operation with siblings and peer interaction.
Abba's All Time Greatest Hits (TV1, 8.45pm). In the future, computers will choose what songs will become hit records. No wait, that's now; software called "Hit Song Science" is being used by the recording industry to predict hit-song-ability - apparently, it predicted hits by Norah Jones and Maroon 5 and is being used by the producers of Anastacia, J-Lo and Robbie Williams, which may come as no surprise. In this special, the software is passed over Abba's songs, both in relation to each other and songs from the modern charts. All four members of Abba talk about the songs, and comment comes from Robin Gibb, Bono, Lulu, Daniel Bedingfield, Donny Osmond, Girls Aloud and - yes, he's still alive - Neil Sedaka.
Royal Variety Performance (TV1, 10.10pm). Featuring a mix of performers more mismatched than Liza Minnelli and David Gest. Clearly, they take the "variety" part seriously over there. Jonathan Ross is the MC; Rod Stewart is top of the bill, performing for Charles and Camilla at the London Coliseum. Also in the line-up: Barry Manilow, Tim Curry and the cast of Spamalot, Connie Fisher and the Von Trapp children, Take That, Sugababes, Patrick Swayze, Jordan and Peter Andre and - yes, he's still alive - Ken Dodd.
Queen: Live at Wembley (Prime, 11.00pm). Another musical extravaganza to see in the new year, Queen's 1986 "Magic" tour, which was to be Freddie Mercury's last. At the time, it was the biggest production Wembley Stadium had ever seen and the filming used 15 cameras and a helicopter. Also welcoming in the new year with music is, of course, C4, which screens a top-40 countdown from 9.00pm as voted by viewers, while on MTV, there's a top-200 countdown. Maori TV sees in the New Year with the best of its musical show Coast, and TV2 has two specials, Crowded House - Farewell to the World at 11.00pm and, because there always has to be a Robbie Williams special on New Year's Eve, his Live in Berlin concert at midnight. TV3 clearly figures all its 18-39 crowd are out partying; it's screening a couple of films.
===NEW YEAR'S DAY===
The Bold and the Beautiful (Prime, weekdays, 4.30pm). Featuring all the absolute daytime soap classics: love triangles, cast members regularly resurrected from the dead, children of doubtful paternity - and anchoring it all is Brooke Logan, who has been in the show from the beginning and has slept with every male in the Forrester clan possible. Pure, campy fun.
Keith Barry - Extraordinary (TV3, 7.30pm). Normally we wouldn't recommend a magician and "psychological illusionist", but in these desperate Christmas-season times, we haven't got much choice. Besides, it might be worth it to see Barry perform "mind control effects" on Jessica Simpson with, according to publicity, "amazing results". What? He's going to make her into an actual actor? That really would be magic.
===THURSDAY JANUARY 4===
Mini-series: Missing (TV3, 8.30pm). "You want frail - you get Froggatt," said one UK critic of Joanne Froggatt, the lead in this two-part mini-series about a young woman who becomes the prime suspect in a series of murders. Froggatt has been making a career of the frail and persecuted: she's played Myra Hindley's sister and the girlfriend of a man stabbed to death in a road rage incident in the UK, and is set to play Joanne Lees in a movie about Peter Falconio's death in the Outback. Missing, however, is based on the novel by Karin Alvtegen, and her character is a psychiatric patient who becomes unsure of her own innocence. Concludes Friday.
===FRIDAY JANUARY 5===
Beauty and the Geek (TV3, 7.30pm). Ashton Kutcher is like the Julie Christie of Hollywood, making oddly compelling reality shows that are light as air. After Punk'd, he and his co-producer Jason Goldberg turned their attentions to this little Darwinian darling, in which hotties and geeks compete for a $250,000 prize. Hilarity ensues, etc.
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