Michael Mosley: Frontline Medicine
The quest to find a new subject for Michael Mosley, the BBC’s prolific medical expert, takes him to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, the sizeable British military base in Afghanistan’s Helmand province where doctors strive to keep alive often badly wounded soldiers. The focus of the series is meant to be advances the military medicos have discovered for civilian life, but even with Mosley’s adept commentary and unvarnished focus it’s difficult to watch the steady procession of casualties from this undeclared, endless war and think of anything but the bloody and obvious cost in human and economic terms. The staff’s desperate successes are a true pyrrhic victory.
Tropical Gourmet: New Caledonia
SBS Food, 8.30pm
Calling New Caledonia ‘‘the France of the South Pacific’’ is intriguing in culinary terms, although somewhat tricky historically and politically. But it’s the former host Justine Schofield sticks to, as she kicks off her foodie’s exploration of the territory 1200 kilometres east of Australia with cutlets of native fish cooked on a Noumea beach. There are plenty of references to the tropical island’s varied ingredients, but the French-speaking Schofield does most of her cooking solo. Some more local expertise wouldn’t hurt.
There are smiles aplenty in this episode of the ABC’s science and medicine flagship as all manner of dental conditions and concerns are tackled at a specially staffed clinic in Sydney’s western suburbs. Dental care is something too many Australians still avoid, whether through distraction or an outright phobia, and the selection of patients reflect a full spectrum of issues. There’s a sojourn with a remote access bush dentist, a gold crown to be dealt with, and some schoolkid experiments worthy of The Curiosity Show. It’s upbeat with plenty of reminders to brush twice a day, but little acknowledgment of the underlying question of public health coverage for dental care.
I Am Steve McQueen
SBS Viceland, 9.20pm
Beginning with his breakthrough role in 1960’s The Magnificent Seven, the American actor Steve McQueen changed the perception of masculinity on the cinema screen: the former Marine with the magnetic blue eyes said less and showed little, but his reticence had a coiled intensity that spoke to an individual who couldn’t abide their governing system. With iconic scenes in the likes of The Great Escape and Bullitt, McQueen’s appeal was pigeonholed. ‘‘He predated cool,’’ says actor Gary Oldman, and like much of this 2014 documentary it honours McQueen with an easily grasped outline and little rigour. Children, contemporaries, and successors offer praise, without digging into the wrinkles of his personality or the choices he made late in his career, when McQueen was battling the cancer that would claim his life in 1980 at the age of just 50.
While his occasional lapses allow for camera pans past empty bottles and sullied surfaces, Rodger Corser’s Dr Hugh Knight isn’t really the ‘bad boy’ that this rural melodrama likes to suggest he is. He’s too good-hearted and dependable for that, as emphasised by this episode which has him dodging attempts by friends to celebrate a milestone birthday while he supports colleagues, including this season’s new spark, Tara (Kate Jenkinson), who have issues of their own. It’s a tricky balancing that Corser does nicely to pull off.
My Grandparent’s War
Produced last year, to mark the 80th anniversary of World War II commencing, this British wartime spin on the Who Do You Think You Are model has four prominent actors – Carey Mulligan, Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas, and in this episode Helena Bonham Carter – learning about the disparate roles their one or more grandparents played in the global conflict. Some were soldiers, remembered in some cases by elderly comrades, but there were many roles to be played. Bonham Carter learns about a maternal grandfather who as a Spanish diplomat helped thousands of Jews escape Nazi-occupied France, while her paternal grandmother was an air raid warden in London during the Blitz. The format gives the show historic focus and fascinating archival material, and of course the various thespians provide exemplary reaction shots to each revelation.
Seemingly nothing can halt the BBC’s eternal motoring show, which has gone through several reboots since the popular trio of Richard Hammond, James May, and Jeremy Clarkson took umbrage and left for Amazon’s deep pockets several years ago. After the Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc eras, the latest bundle of hosts, including former cricketer Freddie Flintoff, have stabilised the series (which also screens on 9Rush on Sundays at 7pm). The magazine format retains favourite segments, even if the banter isn’t quite as trenchant or tidy as in earlier iterations. Celebs appear, cars are overdriven, and silly quests are celebrated.
SBS Viceland, 10.30pm
‘‘I’m not a stripper, I’m a performer,’’ declares Sidney ‘Sid’ Saayman at the start of this brisk documentary about the male erotic dance industry in Australia. As the founder, leader, choreographer, and demanding taskmaster – he’s first seen, only a few seconds offstage, ripping into several of his sweating team for their errors – Sid obsesses over every element of his small business. There is a touch, albeit with impeccable abs and tanned skin, of Chris Lilley’s ludicrous character Mr G to his perpetual demands for more. Director Isaac Elliott shoots Sid and his men performing in various stages of undress, but there’s nothing prurient about the images – there’s atmosphere and excitement, release and calculation. The male dancers and female clients – one private booking is a divorce party in the suburbs – provide explanations for this real life Australian take on Magic Mike, which always comes back to Sid’s ambition: ‘‘I want to sell sex with a story.’’
Silent Witness: Death Maker
The gruesomely lifelike corpses being dissected at the fictitious Lyell Centre can be unsettling at times, particularly this week when the victim is an anodyne suburban grandmother whose biggest dilemma in life was which of the Family Assorted biscuits to choose. But the first of the two-parter heads back into more troubled times, with the possible re-emergence of a Northern Irish terror group thought long disbanded and the search for retribution by one of the victim’s family. It’s all a bit close to home for Irish-born Jack, who re-engages the help of a journalist with connections to the Troubles; meanwhile, Emilia Fox’s lustrous hair continues to deserve its own credits in this long-running British contribution to the slice-and-dice oeuvre.
A series that arrives fairly flaunting the term ‘‘sumptuous’’ along with a cast of dashing gents and crinolined ladies, Beecham House is an unintentionally hilarious attempt to go the full Ivory Merchant on Downton Abbey. Setting its scene in the Delhi of 1795, the six-parter charts the fortunes of mysteriously wealthy former soldier John Beecham as he forges a new life after leaving the corrupt East India Company. Played by Tom Bateman, who looks like a cross between Colin Firth and Daniel Macpherson with added facial hair, our historical hottie is also a man of advanced political views (to wit: ‘‘I stopped being a soldier to trade fairly, not pillage,’’ he declares in one of many diatribes). The first episode features an illegitimate child, an English rose love interest and the arrival of his not-so-dear mama, played by Downton Abbey’s Mrs Patmore, no less. Stream its silliness in its entirety on Tenplay.
The second TV season of this deadly outback noir continues to polish its powerhouse brand thanks to the mumblecore charisma of Aaron Pedersen as lone wolf cop Jay Swan and a script rich in the red-sand layers of northern WA. At the season’s halfway mark the imported star power of Sofia Helin doesn’t go to waste as her career-driven archaeologist sinks deeper into the moral murk over the human bones that inconveniently interrupted her dig; the same bones spur Fran (a star turn from Jada Alberts) to go rogue on her own investigation over the long-ago disappearance of her best friend Zoe. A meth ring pulls the fictitious town of Gideon’s cast of rogues, searchers and lost souls into its orbit but it’s the timeless questions of land and belonging thrumming under the surface that make Mystery Road an Oz drama to celebrate.
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Craig Mathieson is a TV, film and music writer for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
Larissa is a writer and reviewer