There’s a magnificently eclectic cast: Lowe is joined by Liv Tyler, Brian Michael Smith and a deliberately diverse group that promise not just a disaster of the week but some interesting (if sometimes laboured) ethical debates.
Wawu: Divine Hope
One of the more fascinating aspects of black/white interactions in Australia is the complicated impact of Christian missionaries on our First Nations. Unlike most farmers and miners, many of the missionaries engaged deeply with local culture. Prayers, hymns and in at least one case the entire Bible were translated into local languages.
Unwittingly or not, the missionaries did crucial work in preserving language – and therefore culture – even as they proselytised. And in the process several First Nations communities chose to incorporate the Christian message into their existing belief systems. One such cohort is now based at Hope Vale, in Far North Queensland, where a unique Easter tradition has developed centred around the local cemetery.
This deceptively simple documentary, produced by the Hope Vale community, explains that complicated history in their part of the world – being taken away, and then allowed to return, the struggles of their elders (including the original Lutheran pastor, who lived his whole life among them) and their contemporary culture – demonstrating onceagain the extraordinary ability of Australia’s First People to adapt and embrace change.
Stacey Dooley: Whale Wars
SBS Viceland, 9.30pm
Are whales really just food? This documentary focuses not on the “scientific” whaling in the Southern Ocean, but the much more honest whale hunting in Scandinavia, where whale meat has long been a valuable protein supply.
We start in the Faroe Islands, part of the Kingdom of Denmark. There, the traditional capture and killing of pilot whales (not endangered) goes back at least a thousand years, and is still done old-school: pods are herded into a shallow cove and slaughtered by hand. We then head out into the Norwegian Sea where minke whales (also not endangered) are fished commercially, using harpoons shot out of a canon.
Like all Stacey Dooley’s best work, it’s all very friendly, accessible and non-judgmental, raising important questions rather than providing definitive answers. Killing whales is bloody and confronting. But so is killing cows. Whales are highly intelligent. But so are pigs. Is it, in fact, more environmentally responsible to harvest wild meat than rely on large-scale livestock farming?
And when it comes to the issues of cruelty, it’s perhaps one of the Norwegian whalers who provides the most food for thought. “Do they suffer before they die?” Dooley asks him. “I think everybody does that,” he responds.
That special blend of public service information and laughing at the less fortunate has made RBT and its many siblings enduringly popular. Personally, I’m always delighted to see drivers who fail to indicate feel the full force of the law. And with this episode taking us all over Victoria, we get quite the insight into the more eccentric members of the state’s population.
As usual, we’re kept hanging as we wait to see who blows 00 and who doesn’t. And then are kept hanging that little bit longer to see who, having escaped being pinged for drink driving, subsequently gets nabbed over that bong they pulled 10 days ago. Whatever the crime or misdemeanour, though, the take-home message is always the same: People? Don’t do dumb sh*t.
Warrior Women with Lupita Nyong’o
Many of us are starting to realise just how often women, and people of colour, are written out of history. Here Black Panther‘s Lupita Nyong’o sets out to investigate the cohort on which the film’s Dora Milaje was based: the Agojie, a crack all-female military unit tasked with protecting the King of Dahomey in East Africa.
Unsurprisingly, white traders of the 17th and 18th century wrote home regularly about this exotic corps. Yet after the French annihilated Dahomey, its King and most of its citizens, they almost vanished from history – including local history.
The journey Nyong’o takes through what is now Benin is full of fascinating facts and cultural insights (including that the Agojie were revered for their big bottoms). But this is a story more complex than one of simple girl power or historical oddity and it’s to Nyong’o’s credit that she’s prepared to go there.
Another gem turning up on a free-to-air streaming service, this kooky dramedy starring Jonny Lee Miller was grossly underrated in its day and cancelled abruptly after two short seasons. So now’s your chance to check it out if you’re in the mood for something fun and feelgood – and with some cracking talent on both sides of the camera.
The plot goes like this: high-flying lawyer Eli Stone (Miller) suddenly starts (a) getting the urge to do good; (b) hallucinating; and (c) hallucinating George Michael. That means we get a fabulous George Michael hit every episode (starting with Faith) and occasional cameos from the great man himself, along with a case of the week, and Eli’s ongoing quest to discover whether he is in fact a prophet, or just has something very wrong with his brain.
Law & Order: SVU
In the early years of Law & Order, artists (and gallerists, and architects) were the enemy: pseuds who pretended to care about the little guy but were too self-involved to see beyond the frames of their designer eye wear. Oh how times have changed. In this better-than-average instalment of SVU, the vic is a young artist supporting herself working in a strip club, who takes a most excellent revenge when her claims that a club patron raped her are ignored.
Law & Order has rarely been noted for its subtlety but this episode pushes the envelope – gently – in a number of different directions, acknowledging a changed world post-#MeToo and exploring what happens when the previously powerless refuse to play nice.
In an intense eight-part family drama written by Tom Rob Smith, Richard Gere is perfectly cast as media tycoon Max Finch, a man skilled at manipulating situations to his advantage. But his troubled son and heir, Caden (Billy Howle), presents a problem that Finch can’t manage. Overwhelmed by expectation and fuelled by drugs, Caden has suffered a stroke.
Meanwhile Kathryn (the always impressive Helen McCrory), Finch’s quietly strong-willed first wife and Caden’s mother, is endeavouring to support her damaged son and to work with her ex-husband as they try to assist with Caden’s recovery.
The Children’s Hospital
Whether they’re filmed in Melbourne, like Emergency, or Aberdeen, like this BBC Scotland production, observational documentary series shot in hospitals tend to act as positive promotion for the institutions.
Dedicated professionals help people in need and frequently the cases covered in these series have happy endings. As this one focuses on children, the feel-good factor is pumped up even higher. The tone is reassuring, the staff are cheerful and the environment is colourful.
With its second season, series creators Harry and Jack Williams (The Missing, Baptiste), have moved their he-says-she-says romantic thriller to crime-drama mode. Focusing on the death of sex predator Andrew Earlham (Ioan Gruffudd), it pivots between the investigation of the surgeon’s murder and flashbacks to the weeks leading up to it.
His body was found in the Essex marshes and suspicion falls on teacher Laura Nielson (Joanne Froggatt), who exposed him as a serial rapist. Leading the inquiry is briskly confident DI Karen Renton (Katherine Kelly). There are numerous suspects among Earlham’s victims and their loved ones, and the Williams brothers know how to build a suspenseful plot that continually provides new twists and hooks.
Shetland (season premiere)
The Scottish accents are as thick as ever as this solid crime drama starts its fifth season. When parts of a dismembered body are discovered washing up around Shetland, DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) and DS Alison “Tosh” McIntosh (Alison O’Donnell) are on the case.
They’re an engaging detective duo: the thorough, taciturn Perez and his smart, spirited younger sidekick. And the hilly, sparsely populated and windswept coastal landscape offers a reliably striking setting. The plot quickly thickens as the police identify a number of suspicious types lurking in their remote community. Soon they’re dealing with resentment about fishing quotas, a possible drug trade and human trafficking, as well as the victim’s furious, grief-stricken mother (Rakie Ayola).
*Nine is the owner of this masthead.