On TV, April 18-24: including Poldark and Orphan Blackby Fiona Rae
We may have reached romantic-hero nirvana, and the clone wars continue.
SUNDAY APRIL 19
Galavant (TV2, 7.30pm). One of the more odd things to come out of US television during the summer – a musical that’s a Once Upon a Time-Princess Bride mash-up with songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. Despite it sounding like a corn overload, the reviews are good: “There isn’t anything like it on TV right now,” said Indiewire. “Silly but fun.” It’s about gallant knight Galavant (Joshua Sasse) who falls in love with a damsel (Mallory Jansen) who’s forced into marriage with an absurd king (Timothy Omundson). However, all is not as in a fairy tale: the damsel quite likes castle life and is amusing herself with the court jester.
Nigel Blows Stuff Up (TV1, 8.00pm). Or: Nigel Latta Does Science. Typically, it’s all fun and games with the potential for lost eyes – burning down a house, lightning conducting, car crashing, etc.
MONDAY APRIL 20
My Kitchen Rules Australia (TV2, today, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7.30pm). Evils of our time: internet bullying, cronuts, reality cooking shows that screen three times a week. We blame “series link” and its malevolent brother “binge watch”. “Product placement”, you have a hand in this too, you jerk.
Frankenstein and the Vampyre: A Dark and Stormy Night (Sky Arts, Sky 027, 8.30pm). A BBC dramatised documentary that goes some way towards explaining a pivotal moment in literary history: the night Mary Shelley, just 18, created a baseline work of enduring horror, gazumping two of Britain’s most revered men of letters in the process. Not only that, but Lord Byron’s doctor, John Polidori, wrote The Vampyre, considered to be the first modern vampire story. The doco features dramatisations of that 1816 night in a villa on Lake Geneva, and authors Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris and Margaret Atwood are among today’s literary titans who comment. As a living demonstration that these characters and themes endure, SoHo (Sky 010) is having a Box Set marathon of season one of gothic monster mash-up Penny Dreadful, the series starring Timothy Dalton and Eva Green, this Saturday from 3.30pm.
Schitt’s Creek (TV2, 9.05pm). Perhaps something of a revenge comedy on the part of Canadian father and son Eugene and Daniel Levy: an ultra-wealthy family lose it all and are forced to relocate to the aptly named town of the title, which they bought years before as a joke. The Levys created it and star, along with the wonderful Catherine O’Hara, who you may know as a favourite of Christopher Guest (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind). Early reviews suggest it’s pretty broad at first, but settles into something more subtle.
Orphan Black (SoHo, Sky 010, 9.30pm). Talk about creating strong female characters – Orphan Black is having its smorgasbord and chowing down. In case you haven’t caught up with one of the best sci-fi series ever, the show focuses on a group of clones who are gradually unravelling the mystery of their origin and discovering all the other clones that were created – 13 that we know of so far. The amazing Tatiana Maslany plays a core of five very different women, from a “soccer mom” to a violent, disturbed Ukrainian. She has also played a transgender clone, a German and a dying teacher. (In the nature-versus-nurture debate, nurture is winning, it seems.) The new mystery for season three, which starts tonight, is the introduction of male clones, who seem mean and crazy and were apparently bred to be an army.
TUESDAY APRIL 21
The Cape (The Zone, Sky 016, 8.30pm). Fantasy and sci-fi are now so mainstream that we hardly blink an eye when Peter Dinklage wins an Emmy and a Golden Globe for Game of Thrones. But when nearly every show is an adaptation of a book or a comic, here’s one that’s original. Showrunner Tom Wheeler has created a hero who takes on the persona of his son’s favourite comic-book hero. He’s a former cop (played by Aussie David Lyons) who’s set up for the murder of the police chief by a villain known as Chess (the always reliably evil James Frain). He then joins the circus and learns to use a special cape made of spider silk. The Cape’s cast also includes Summer Glau, Keith David, Vinnie Jones and Elliott Gould.
Inside Men (The Box, Sky 005, 9.30pm). One of those British shows that’s here for a thrilling time, not a long time. It’s a four-part crime series that seemed to be saying something about the recession zeitgeist when it screened in the UK in 2012 (“Inside Men was poignant in these cash-strapped times,” said Metro UK.) Perhaps after the British banking crisis and subsequent government bailouts, the fictional armed robbery of a cash-counting facility in Bristol seemed fair enough. The series begins with this daylight robbery in which manager John (Steven Mackintosh) and guard Chris (Ashley Walters) are viciously beaten up by a group of shotgun-weilding masked men.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 22
Poldark (Prime, 8.30pm). Last week it was Thunderbirds; this week, another beloved British series is updated for a new audience. The BBC’s search for something to rival ITV’s Downton Abbey has led to it giving Poldark another go. For older audience members, there’s fun in comparing it with the 1970s series starring Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees that became one of the most successful British TV adaptations of all time – until Pride and Prejudice came along 20 years later anyway.
For younger viewers, there’s Aidan Turner, previously known as melancholy vampire John Mitchell in Being Human and Kili in the Hobbit films. With a pair of eyebrows that even he admits were made for frowning, Turner is perfect as the brooding, angry Ross Poldark, a mining heir who returns from fighting in the American Revolutionary War to find his father deceased and his Cornish estate in tatters. All that’s left are the rats and a black-toothed Phil Davis and his slovenly wife. To make matters worse, the woman with whom he had an “understanding” is now betrothed to his cousin.
Nearly everyone is against him, from his uncle (Warren Clarke), to jealous new-money banker George Warleggan (Jack Farthing). A lesser man might have turned tail and headed for London, but Poldark, armed with only his good looks and a social conscience, decides to rebuild the estate with his bare hands and what money he can scrape up pawning the family silver.
“In Ross Poldark we have reached romantic-hero nirvana,” swooned the Guardian. “Not since Colin Firth strode purposefully out of the lake at Pemberley, his white shirt clinging to the planes of his chest, have Sunday nights been such a treat.” This was possibly written after Poldark’s Darcy moment in the sea in episode two, which dispenses with the shirt altogether.
Viewers may also remember the feisty Demelza, first discovered dressed as a boy and rescued from her violent family by Poldark. This time round, the role is played by Eleanor Tomlinson, who wore much fancier period costumes in The White Queen.
The other character is, of course, Cornwall, which is filmed in glorious cinematic sweeps, all rugged coastline and wild open fields. Just as Downton Abbey has been doing wonders for visitor numbers at Highclere Castle and Outlander has been a boon for Scottish tourism, perhaps Poldark can revive modern Cornish fortunes too.
THURSDAY APRIL 23
Britain’s Got Talent (TV1, 7.30pm). Well, at least it’s only on once a week. Same format as last year and the same judges, including David Walliams, who’s appearing at the Auckland Writers Festival. A device called the “golden buzzer” exists and has already been employed by Simon Cowell, who has sent an act from Manchester straight through to the semi-finals.
Offspring (TV1, 8.45pm). Oh, Offspring, you make us laugh and you make us cry, sometimes at the same time – and now it’s for the last time. After five seasons, it’s the end of the series; Nina’s last chance to be un-neurotic, Billie’s last chance to sort out her life, Cherie and Clegg’s last chance to have a quickie in the supply closet. The lovely Asher Keddie (Nina) has gone on to star in Party Tricks, a political drama-comedy series by the same producers.
FRIDAY APRIL 24
The Graham Norton Show (TV3, 8.30pm). No more highlights episodes – here’s the latest season (No 17), only two weeks behind the UK. Guests are Stanley Tucci, Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse – the latter has been appearing in a series that’s an affectionate spoof of Peter Gabriel. Isn’t that, like, blasphemy or something?
This week’s Our World documentary sounds like one of those silly speculative Shark Week outings, but Search for the Ocean’s Super Predator (TV1, Saturday, 7.30pm) actually turns up something more than a failed beastie hunt. Australian film-maker David Riggs started out searching for an animal that was big enough to kill a 3m great white shark and was led to another phenomenon altogether.
The great white had been part of a tagging programme and when its tracker washed up on a beach in Western Australia, it led Riggs and his team to Bremer Canyon, a marine hotspot where species of all kinds congregate once a year for their own battle royale. “It’s a multi-species seasonal bonanza,” Riggs told the Sydney Morning Herald, “and it happens to be on what is now recognised as a major hydrocarbon resource.”
Naturally, it’s all to do with the food chain. The nutrient-rich area leads crustaceans to release billions of eggs that in turn attract larger animals. “On one particular day, over a four-nautical-mile area, we saw in excess of 100 killer whales,” said Riggs. The future of this extraordinary gathering may be in jeopardy, however; some of Riggs’ information came from an oil and gas company that’s exploring the area.
On a similar watery note, although presumably less dangerous, is Sacred Rivers with Simon Reeve (BBC Knowledge, Sky 074, Thursday, 7.30pm) in which the personable Reeve explores three of the world’s major rivers, the Nile, the Yangtze and the Ganges. Rather than a nature series, it’s an investigation into the meaning and role of the rivers: at the source of the Nile, pilgrims gather to give thanks or seek healing and good fortune; in the foothills of the Himalayas, Reeve is blessed by a dope-smoking holy man before he sets out on a 1600km journey along the Ganges; in China, he attempts to repeats Chairman Mao’s feat of swimming across the Yangtze.
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