On TV, January 9-15: including Downton Abbey and Fargo

by Fiona Rae / 31 December, 2015
The most successful British costume drama since Brideshead Revisited may have a final surprise in store.
Downton Abbey, Thursday.
Downton Abbey, Thursday.


Fargo (SoHo, Sky 010, 1.35pm). Have we mentioned how brilliant the second season of Fargo has been? The cinematography by Dana Gonzales alone deserves all the awards, although it’s Kirsten Dunst and Patrick Wilson who are nominees at this week’s Golden Globes (see Monday). The series, which won last year, is again nominated in the mini-series category. Noah Hawley’s taut scripts describe a 1970s US still reeling from Vietnam, in an economic slump and on the verge of a deathly corporate culture. There’s plenty of that Coen brothers’ bleak humour (and violence), but at its core, this season’s been about women and family. SoHo screens the entire second season today.


Making New Zealand (Prime, 8.35pm). Trainspotters! Tonight’s episode is about the development of rail in New Zealand and pays homage to some of the incredible ­engineering that was required to tackle the country’s ornery geo­graphy. This includes the North Island main trunk line, the Raurimu Spiral and the opening up of the King Country.

The Blue Rose (Vibe, Sky 006, 9.30pm). Vibe goes local with this rather good series that was sent to the graveyard by TV3. There’s some lovely work by Antonia Prebble and Siobhan Marshall as a mild-mannered secretary and a tough motorbike courier respectively who team up to solve the murder of the title character, a law firm PA. Vibe is also screening season two of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (Monday, 7.30pm) and The Doctor Blake Mysteries (Friday, 7.30pm).

The Blue Rose, Sunday.
The Blue Rose, Sunday.


Tennis (Sky Sport 4, Sky 054, noon). The women’s ASB Classic is done and dusted and the men step into the arena from today. It’s a ­quality field that includes world Nos 10, 11 and 12, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, John Isner and Kevin Anderson. Last year’s champion, Czech Jiri Vesely, returns, and there are four newcomers, including world No 23 Ivo Karlovic. Reportedly, world No 7 David Ferrer could rock up on a wildcard if he loses in an early round in Doha.

The 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards (Vibe, Sky 006, 2.00pm). Naughty old Ricky Gervais is the host of this year’s Golden Globes, so there’ll likely be a lot of risqué swearing and backhanded compliments. In the film section, Todd Haynes’ Carol, starring Cate Blanchett, has five nominations, and others with multiple noms include Steve Jobs, The Revenant and Room. In television, it’s an interesting selection that includes Outlander, Empire, Fargo, American Crime, Mr Robot, Wolf Hall and Transparent.

New Girl (Four, 7.30pm). Zooey Deschanel may have been away having a baby, but she returns to the single life in season five of the little series that could. Four is screening episodes within days of the US broadcast, so details are sketchy, but we do know that Cece and Schmidt’s wedding preparations feature, as does the arrival of Cece’s mother, who doesn’t approve of the “slim-hipped ghost of Tom Cruise”. Guest stars this season include Megan Fox and John Cho.

Australia’s Most Hunted (TV1, 9.30pm). A fairly lurid documentary from our cousins across the Tassie about ­murderer Malcolm Naden, who achieved a sort-of folk-hero status because of his seven-year stint on the run. Naden absconded in June 2005 after the strangulation of young mother Kristy Scholes in West Dubbo. He was also a suspect in the disappearance of another young woman, Lateesha Nolan, in January. There were various sightings of Naden in NSW bushland in the following years, and police posted increasingly larger rewards, culminating in a $250,000 bounty in 2011. In that same year, an officer was shot during an unsuccessful operation to capture Naden. This doco includes crime scene photographs, interviews, Naden’s confessions after being captured, and drama­tisations featuring Newcastle actor Dominic Bates.

Heroes Reborn (TV3, 11.15pm). TV3 gets back to some of its regular programming this week, including the double crime whammy of NCIS and SVU on Tuesday (8.30pm and 9.30pm), plus these final three episodes of Heroes Reborn, the mini-series reboot that we didn’t even know we wanted. The new heroes, or “evos” (evolved humans), are trying to save the world from a geomagnetic reversal, so with just a few episodes left, there should be plenty of fireworks, so to speak.


Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week (Choice TV, 8.30pm). The fitness freaks may think they’re doing well with “boot camp”, but how would they go with real special forces military training? In this six-part BBC series, 29 hard-core fitness fanatics undergo tests devised by British, Russian, ­Philippine, Israeli, Australian and US special forces. This includes not only incredible physical challenges, such as “surf torture” – exercises in the freezing Welsh sea – but psychological punishments, such as 12 hours of interrogation. The series opened up the debate about whether women should be allowed into the British SAS, as there are a number of recruits of the female persuasion who acquit themselves well.


Catastrophe (SoHo, Sky 010, 8.30pm). Season two, as predicted in our November rant about this funny, salty, wonderful series about a Londoner and an American who have a one-weekend stand and end up with a baby. Needless to say, highly recommended. SoHo also begins season three of Getting On at 9.00pm. This is the US version of the droll, satirical and often poignant British series about the staff of a geriatric ward. Laurie Metcalf heads the cast, although Emmy and Critics’ Choice nominations have gone to Niecy Nash and Mel Rodriguez. Grant Bowler appears in the first episode as charismatic New Zealand doctor Ron Rudd.

Tut (Sky Movies Extra, Sky 031, 8.30pm). Nutso mini-series that might be worth it for Ben Kingsley’s eyeliner alone. Incest, scheming, lots of women in floaty revealing outfits – in the face of a paucity of historical information, the story of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun gets the turn-it-up-to-11 treatment from the producers of The Pillars of the Earth, and the art department goes a bit bonkers as well. Avan Jogia plays the boy king, Kingsley is the evil Grand Vizier Ay (that eyeliner is a total giveaway), and the cast also features Alexander Siddig (last seen in Game of Thrones) and Iddo Goldberg (last seen in a video with Lorde).

Downton Abbey (Prime, 8.30pm). It’s just as well that Downton Abbey, which concludes this week with a Christmas special, ends on the cusp of 1926, well before World War II and the ultimate demise of the English country house.

The decline of the stately home had begun in the latter stages of the 19th century and was exacerbated by the loss of staff during World War I and the rise of modern industry. The death blow for many came after WWII, when houses that had been requisitioned during the war were returned to their owners in poor shape. Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed, was nearly sold to pay for death duties after the 5th Earl of Carnarvon made his quietus in 1923, and housed children during the Blitz.

Change has been coming to Downton ever since the series began in 2010, when the heir presumptive to the earldom died on the Titanic and the Crawley family had to welcome the middle classes into their lives. The Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), in particular, were terrible snobs, but Julian Fellowes’ enthusiasm for a paternalistic era when everyone knew their place has charmed the world.

It’s been bonkers. The death of a dashing Turkish diplomat in Lady Mary’s bed; Lady Sybil campaigning for women’s rights and going off with the Irish chauffeur; the terrible Thomas Barrow scheming below stairs; Bates’ evil wife and his imprisonment; Shirley MacLaine guest-starring as Cora’s mother; Kiri Te Kanawa guest-starring as Nellie Melba.

How could we forget the shocking deaths of Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) and Matthew Crawley (Dan ­Stevens)? Over the years, Fellowes has been very good at anti-climax, but to off two major characters from the most successful British costume drama since Brideshead Revisited seemed unthinkable.

However, it appears that ­Fellowes has no taste for a tragic ending in this final, two-hour special, which has been partly filmed at a dwelling even more grand and historic than Highclere – Alnwick in Northumberland, built following the Norman conquest, and here portraying Bertie Pelham’s home, Brancaster Castle. In addition, Patricia Hodge is set to appear as Bertie’s mama, which surely means that Bert (Harry Hadden-Paton) and Edith (Laura Carmichael) have a future.

Details are scarce, but cousin Rose (Lily James) returns, Mary is attempting a rapprochement with Edith, Barrow leaves, and it appears that Anna and Bates’ baby is going to arrive. Perhaps Uncle Julian is going to make us cry one last time.

Tut, Thursday.
Tut, Thursday.


Hikoi: The Land March (TV1, Sunday, 10.10pm) misses out on commemorating the actual 40th anniversary of the day that 5000 marchers arrived in Wellington and presented a petition signed by 60,000 people to Prime Minister Bill Rowling. That was October 13, 1975, the culmination of a watershed event in our history and the beginning of a new politicisation of Maori.

Te Rarawa leader Whina Cooper, then aged 79, had led the marchers from Te Hapua, in the Far North, to Wellington; they stopped at 25 marae on the way, gathering strength and growing in numbers. The aim of the hikoi was to stop the sale of Maori land and to raise concerns about the control of what land was left in Maori hands.

This documentary features interviews with people who took part in the march, as well as archive footage. It’s a companion piece, in a way, to Te Matakite o Aotearoa: The Maori Land March, the 1975 doco that was directed by Geoff Steven and shot by Leon Narbey. It is available at NZ on Screen.

In time for summer is Shark (TV1, Sunday, 7.30pm), a two-part BBC documentary that looks at the diversity of the ocean’s top predator. More than 30 species of shark were filmed around the world, including wobbegongs, manta rays, great whites and hammerheads. The first programme focuses on why they are such successful predators and reveals intelligent behaviour such as that of blacktip sharks, which hunt in packs and herd fish. The second episode reveals sharks’ social lives, courtship rituals, pup-rearing abilities and powers of navigation.

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