Including America's Got Talent and Dollhouse

by Sarah Barnett / 21 August, 2010


America's Got Talent (Prime, 8.45pm). Going into the fourth season, we're still waiting for the talent, but there's certainly plenty of America, in all its dog-training, baton-twirling, yodelling glory. Host Jerry Springer is out, replaced by Nick Cannon, who is an actor/rapper/comedian - and Mr Mariah Carey.


Dollhouse (C4, 9.30pm). By all accounts, Joss Whedon's (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) futuristic series was really hitting its straps when it was cancelled late last year. Buffy alum Eliza Dushku stars as Echo, one of a series of "Dolls" who've given up their lives and personalities for five-year stints in order to be hired out to wealthy clients, programmed with whatever personality and skills are demanded. The deal is they'll get their memories back, and a whopping pay day, at the end of their commitment, but Echo already seems to be getting flashes from her former life, involving some kind of crime or misdemeanour - to be revealed. It's a tricky conceit, this: making an audience root for a character who's completely different every week, but after a wobbly start, Whedon's TV mojo kicks in. After he first pitched the pilot to Fox, Whedon wrote on his website that the studio wanted massive changes. As he described it, they wanted him "to cut to the chase. And add a chase. That you can cut to", so if the expensive-looking whizz-bang stuff looks out of place, blame the network and move on. Beneath the glossy exterior, there still beats the heart of the nerd who brought us Buffy.


Californication (TV3, 9.30pm). David Duchovny is some kind of genius. But then, we knew that from his X-Files days, when he played the more ridiculous storylines with a knowing wink to the audience and with tongue firmly in cheek. Hank Moody's tongue, however, is in everyone else's cheeks - but he's easily telly's most lovable, and roguish, lovable rogue. In a degenerate kind of way. And yet, despite the over-the-top behaviour, something rings true, probably because not much can top the real world of literary revelation and scandal. This season, Hank's dealing with the fallout of shtupping his ex's underage stepdaughter, whose first book - that she stole from him - is about to be published. No joy with the writer's block, but his new teaching job opens other opportunities.

Spooks (UKTV, 9.30pm). When we last saw Spooks, MI5 counterterrorism head Sir Harry Pearce was wrapped in a body bag in a car boot - going into this eighth season, all will be revealed. Of course, his survival is hardly a given, as the Spooks writers have no qualms about dropping major characters into deep-fat fryers or into deadly hostage situations, which is part of what makes the show ridiculously good fun after all this time.


Chuck (TV2, 8.30pm). At last. It's been a long time between trips to the Buy More - but Chuck, which was on shaky ground after the second season in the US, finally got greenlit for this third season, and looks like it'll go into a fourth, too. Chuck's had an upgrade to the Intersect in his brain: he can now download skills, Matrix-style, such as kung fu and shooting, which makes him a candidate to be an actual spy. What that'll mean for his relationship with Sarah and his Buy More buddies is another matter. Keep an eye out for guest star "Stone Cold" Steve Austin as a villain in later episodes, and geek-heaven appearances by Brandon Routh (Superman) and Kristin Kreuk (Smallville).

Human Target (TV2, 9.30pm). How ridiculous is Human Target? So ridiculous. Stunts include learning how to fly a commercial airliner while it's in the air, then flying it upside down, while on the trail of a programmer who has "the skeleton key to the internet". Seriously. In other words, wonderful fun, as befits a series based on a Marvel comic. Mark Valley (Boston Legal) stars as the HT: in the comic, he assumed his clients' identities to protect them; here, he merely integrates into their lives as closely as possible, delivering deadpan wisecracks and elbows to the face.

Moon TV USA (TV2, 10.30pm). In which the whole kit and insane caboodle relocates to New York. The Speedo cops are on exchange with the NYPD, for some reason, and Colin the Hamster Man has relocated from Dominion Rd to Brooklyn. Extra meta-features this season: a behind-the-scenes look at the show, and the show-within-a-show, The Late Night Big Breakfast Show.

Feedback (TV2, 11.00pm). A primetime current affairs presenter suffers a fall from grace and is relegated to the graveyard shift. Arthur Meek, better known for his theatre work, stars as "Arthur Meek", said disgraced anchor, in a programme created by the minds behind Eating Media Lunch and Back of the Y. Which is the best way of thinking of it: all the madness of today's current affairs crossed with, well, insanity.


Hamish & Andy's Caravan of Courage: Great Britain & Ireland (TV3, 7.30pm). Hamish Blake and Andy Lee are the hottest radio ticket in Australia - their seemingly unstoppable rise through the ratings on that side of the Tasman shows no sign of flagging. Fittingly, this special began as a radio series following them and their caravan, Sir Vancealot, through the British Isles. Anyone who saw their delightfully daffy sailing voyage to Tasmania in a tall ship, on Rove, knows what to expect.


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