The local church ladies running classes in colloquial Australian (“We’ll head over to the servo after brekkie”) are just some of the delightful characters and surprising stories crammed in here. The only discordant note is that despite the opening credits identifying the town as being in Gangulu country, the original inhabitants of the area remain conspicuous by their absence.
Guy Sebastian: The Man, the Music
It’s the central paradox of being a pop star – pop star, not musician, or even rock star – that you’re obliged to be simultaneously self-aggrandising and self-effacing. The commercial machine requires you to relentlessly self-promote, while fans demand you remain conspicuously and authentically humble.
Few current popular music heroes manage that juggle as successfully as Guy Sebastian, as this documentary amply (if perhaps unintentionally) demonstrates.
And whatever you think of his music, you have to admire the way he’s parlayed winning a talent competition into a respected 15-plus year career – nor deny that he’s one of the industry’s genuine nice guys. Filmed in the lead-up to last year’s Ridin’ With You tour, fans will love the peek behind-the-scenes, along with plenty of Guy doing what he does best.
Who Do You Think You Are Australia: Julie Bishop
Who Do You Think You Are? always runs to a loose kind of script. (“Would you like to know more?”; “I’d love to know more!”) But within those parameters, we actually get to see the former foreign minister pretty relaxed, and very open to whatever comes her way.
It’s fun to see her loosening up, although she’s never not neat as a pin. (And what a collection of knitwear!) However, if you look closely, you’ll even glimpse her in her slippers.
Travelling the world in search of her ancestors is of course right in her wheelhouse and while most of the action takes place in England, we still get the usual intriguing serve of history – including some “who knew?” stuff about Britain’s stand against slavery. In the end, it surprises no one – least of all Ms Bishop – to discover she has bold adventurers on both sides of the family.
Perhaps deciding that it no longer felt irresponsible to show crowds mingling on Bondi Beach, the brains trust at Ten have returned this stalwart factual program to the schedule. And it continues to do what it does so well: show Aussie lifeguards at work, without over-egging the pudding, and providing some useful public service info at the same time.
Indeed, this episode in the returning season (the 15th) opens with a great little story about a surfer saving his brother’s life by mimicking the resuscitation techniques he’d seen on Bondi Rescue. (Both lads turn up at Bondi to get some proper, actual lessons.) Elsewhere, all your favourites and their absurd monikers are back: Whippet, Singlets (pictured), Bagus, Faddy et al (although you’ll have to wait to next week for Hoppo and Chappo).
Who Gets to Stay in Australia?
I think we’re supposed to feel sorry for these people, to see them as victims of a brutal bureaucracy. But in the first episode of this new factual series, the lasting impression is of a succession of silly people who should have known better. The motivation behind Who Gets to Stay in Australia? is laudable: to examine the nuts and bolts of applying for permanent residency, why people are rejected, and what they can do about it, all from a very personal perspective. But while one case study certainly seems both perverse and unnecessarily harsh (a Partner Visa for a US citizen queried on the grounds of the “character” of her Australian-born husband), another might have plenty of viewers hoping the miscreant is deported, and the third will have plenty more questioning the judgment of the filmmakers.
Overall, most of the “heartbreak” involves people hoping that somehow the rules don’t apply to them. Of course, whether the rules are fair in the first place is a whole other question but as Amanda Vanstone, one of the experts quoted, points out: if there’s a bunch of people patiently and painstakingly following those rules, what entitles another group to special treatment?
SBS Viceland, 9.20pm
Season three of this kooky Canadian comedy starts with a monologue describing the frigid weather that runs through the alphabet from A to Z, cheating only slightly on X for Xceptionally. Rapid-fire and ridiculous (and pointless) – but superbly articulate – it’s Letterkenny all over.
If you are not already on board Letterkenny‘s absurdist train, it’s probably best not to start at the third season. You might find yourself rather discombobulated by its – ahem – unique sensibility and distinctive delivery. But if you’re in the mood for comedy unlike anything you’ve seen before, the whole shebang is on On Demand. And fans? This time round, we’re in a winter wonderland – Letterkenny style.
Thank God You’re Here
Apart from Tom Gleisner’s opening monologues, which have dated somewhat (what on earth was the controversy in Indonesia in early 2006?) age has not wearied this delightful improv series. On the contrary, 15 years down the track we’ve all forgotten most of what transpired (although some scenes, like Angus Sampson as a surgeon, remain embedded in my memory) which makes it all as fresh and funny as the day it was made.
It’s also interesting to look anew at some of the talent here, both in the regular cast and the guests. Sampson was not at all well known when he was recruited for this. You forget how much fun Fifi Box is when she goes wildly off piste. And for many of us, it was our first real look at people like Heidi Arena, Roz Hammond, Ed Kavalee and Nicola Parry, all of whom would go on to individual greatness.
The Living Room (series return)
The “Fab Four” are back, trills the network publicity for this Friday night favourite as Amanda Keller, Chris Brown, Barry du Bois and Miguel Maestre return for the ninth season of their DIY show, spruiked as “revamped, re-energised and relocated”.
No previews were available, but a couple of things are evident on the basis of past performance and current promotions. Not only can this quartet deliver the cheery tone required for such infotainment shows, but they make their camaraderie appear authentic.
A key aspect of the revamp is the addition of a goodwill-mission angle. The fab ones will descend on a different house each week and, in the style of productions such as Backyard Blitz and Ground Force, offer a grateful family a spruced-up residence. They will oversee renovations, redesign the garden and provide recipes for family meals.
The Clinton Affair
SBS on Demand
Directed by Blair Foster and produced by Alex Gibney, this seven-part documentary series opens with Republican anger at having lost the 1992 election to a young Democrat governor from Arkansas. The new President was Bill Clinton, whose easy charm and liberal credentials led to his embrace as a progressive Southern leader promising change.
The series begins by detailing the broad-based support he attracted, notably from working-class and rural voters, and foreshadowing the questions of character that turned him into a target for attack. Names associated with the seven-year, $70 million investigation into the President start to appear: Gennifer Flowers, Paula Ryan, Vince Foster, Monica Lewinsky, Kenneth Starr, Whitewater. The final episode begins with the 1998 case for impeachment mounted by Starr.
The current POTUS makes an appearance, fronting a press conference with four women accusing Clinton of inappropriate sexual conduct. It’s a forensic examination and a sad reflection on an affair that captivated the US and the world.
Family Rules (series return)
Through two seasons of this documentary series which celebrates love and unity, we’ve become acquainted with the Rule family, youthful Noongar woman Daniella and her nine vibrant daughters.
The first episode of the third season focuses on “sister number two”, Shenika, and her husband, Trent. They’ve been together for 10 years, have three young boys and are expecting their first daughter. It’s cause for much excitement, the baby shower all pink and white balloons and iced cupcakes.
Shenika and Trent are planning a move away from Perth, south to Bunbury, where Trent has relatives, and he anticipates quality time in the outdoors with his sons. They take an exploratory trip to check out the town, but their eldest son isn’t keen on the proposed relocation.
*Nine is the owner of this masthead.