Fire Keepers of Kakadu
Destined for Open University in the UK, this simple documentary has a little of that high-school tutorial tone. But don’t let it put you off: Fire Keepers of Kakadu is as uplifting as it is fascinating. We join the Bininj, the traditional owners of Kakadu National Park, as they prepare for an annual Dry Season feast.
Those preparations give us insight into the ingenuity they employ in making various bush tucker edible, along with the varied purposes of their regular “patchwork burns”. More than a way of managing the land, the burns are a crucial tool for hunting (the best – perhaps the only – way to herd kangaroos) as well as a central aspect of culture. All this is explained by both the old people, and a new generation growing up with a fresh respect for traditional ways.
Who Do You Think You Are Australia: Cameron Daddo
If you ever thought Cameron Daddo has had rather a charmed life, this instalment of Who Do You Think You Are will only confirm it. Convicts! Royalty! Duels! If you’d commissioned a Daddo-suitable script it’d look an awful lot like this. The high drama in which Daddo’s ancestors were embroiled – melodrama, some might say – is the kind of stuff you couldn’t make up. And like all the best episodes of this long-running series, it offers a nice little history lesson too.
The toughness and entrepreneurial spirit of Australia’s first white settlers – especially the women folk – never ceases to amaze, and if the ghastly indigenous slaughter in which the Daddo progenitors were possibly involved is glossed over a little, at least it’s not completely brushed under the carpet. The only real downside here is that the Daddo history offers so little opportunity for weeping (although Cam does manage to tear up a couple of times at how awesome his ancestors were).
“It is warm. But I don’t think it’s gonna to get to 47,” shrugs truckie Slick. That’s the thing about Outback Truckers. Anyone who’s ever spent any sort of time in remote Australia instantly recognises that the roads, the weather, the distances, the conditions – and the characters – really are like this. There’s absolutely no need to slap on the mayo. That said, there is always an effort made to provide some kind of narrative structure. On Tuesday, one thread involves the unflappable Slick trying to get home in time for Christmas. Elsewhere, another salt-of-the-earth type undertakes a monster run to take feed to one part of drought-ravaged inland NSW, and water to another.
The Art of More
Glossy thriller starring Kate Bosworth, Dennis Quaid and Generic Handsome Guy, revolving around the world of rare artefacts and fine art. Quaid is clearly having a ball playing an obnoxious, loud-mouthed git, and if who’s ripping off whom – and who we should be cheering for – is not at all clear I suspect that’s probably the point.
Taronga: Who’s Who in the Zoo
One’s instinct is to describe this good-hearted factual series as “family-friendly” but it’s probably best not to let the juniors watch Wednesday’s instalment unsupervised. Sure, there are adorable baby koalas (seriously, sooo adorable) but there’s also a bit of grit and a bit of adult content.
In a typically packed episode we see a croc with a cold (totally G-rated) and a meerkat with a limp – also completely benign, although it was interesting to hear the keepers mention that they might have to manage the enclosure a little more closely to make sure brawling didn’t break out within the clan.
The goanna needing emergency surgery was undeniably fascinating but I had my hands over my face for at least half of it. Your five-year-old might find it a bit much. And then there’s the attempt to get the Sun Bears to mate. Watching the “instant chemistry” – as narrator Naomi Watts rather euphemistically puts it – might require some delicate explaining.
Starring Edie Falco, directed by our own Kate Dennis and with the co-creator of House as showrunner, Tommy is better than your average prime-time network drama. Falco plays Abigail Thomas – aka Tommy – a woman with a complicated past who’s unexpectedly elevated to the position of LA’s Chief of Police: the first woman ever in the role.
It could have been a hot mess of clunky speechifying and patronising exposition but while there is a bit of that – and some of the “witty” exchanges misfire – strong performances and interesting characterisation make the whole thing very watchable. There’s also some nice stuff going on around the edges in the direction and editing that subtly add to our viewing pleasure. Not rocket surgery, but certainly a fresh take on the police procedural.
Miss Scarlet and the Duke
Fun period dramedy set in late Victorian London about the adventures and travails of a lady private eye. When Eliza Scarlet inherits a detective agency from her father, it brings her into regular antagonistic contact with tall, dark and handsome William Wellington of Scotland Yard – aka Duke. Much URST ensues. Imagine Phryne Fisher, only with a lot more petticoats.
Beyond the costumes and sets not a lot of attention is paid to period detail – many moments are wildly anachronistic – but Miss Scarlet (Kate Phillips) is an appealing character, the Duke is suitably dishy, and Miss Scarlet’s all-female household holds plenty of promise as things evolve.
It also has some nice twisty plots, ensuring that while Miss Scarlet may always escape from her predicaments and solve her puzzles, how that happens is not at all predictable. A real crowd-pleaser.
Erinsborough turns on the rainbow colours when Lassiters hosts a Pride festival and a vibrant Courtney Act confidently steals the show. The event’s star attraction, she sings, wears a couple of fab outfits and provides makeovers for Sheila (Colette Mann) and Ned (Ben Hall). There’s glitter and good vibes galore, although as the festivities are under way Chloe (April Rose Pengilly) and Pierce (Tim Robards) both fret that they’ve rushed too hastily into their marriage.
Meanwhile, Aaron (Matt Wilson) and David (Takaya Honda) face a second interview in their quest to become foster parents. Clearly efforts are being made to distance Neighbours from its conservative image of old. Here, Erinsborough congratulates itself on being “supportive and inclusive”, embraces gay parents and drag revues, and accepts Chloe’s bisexuality. As an added bonus, Pierce gets his shirt off and displays an impressive six-pack.
SBS Viceland, 9.20pm
The sun is shining in Los Angeles, but the atmosphere in the city is anything but bright. Buildings have been damaged by attacks, food and medicine are in short supply, armed and masked militia men known as Redhats patrol the streets, and people are summarily arrested.
In this drama series created by Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Ryan J. Condal, the city is under the control of an initially unseen occupying force. There’s a dangerous black market and an underground resistance movement. Will Bowman (Josh Holloway) and his wife, Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies), live with their two children while worrying over the whereabouts of their missing 12-year-old son.
When Will, a former military man, attempts to locate the boy, he finds himself being offered the chance “to turn crisis into opportunity”, and is introduced to a different strata of LA society. Meanwhile, Katie reveals hidden steel as she defies the curfew and obtains much-needed medicine. It’s a solid and assured set-up for the three seasons to follow.
Grand Designs (season premiere)
“Good grief, what a wild, magnificent, brutal place to build a house,” exclaims Kevin McCloud as he approaches the windswept Scottish cliff-top where civil engineer Andy and textile designer Jeanette plan to build their dream home. Their well-waterproofed concrete and glass construction will replace the old military listening station and it’s been designed by Andy to nestle into the landscape and make the most of the spectacular water views.
But as this ambitious project kicks off the 17th season of the show, regular viewers will be well aware of what might follow: planning-permit delays, incorrect deliveries, inclement weather, budget blowouts. Twenty months from the start of construction, McCloud returns to the site to find a place that “reveals itself like a pearl in an oyster”.