Quinto then meets a Shaolin warrior monk and tests the extent to which he’s trained his body to resist injury. Finally, there’s Steve Pete, who has a rare disease that prevents him from feeling pain. Quinto asks if people are born with superhuman powers, if they can develop them in a mind-over-matter style of training, or if extraordinary circumstances might produce them.

Tuesday

Absentia (premiere)
Seven, 8.30pm
Castle actress Stana Katic has cast herself in a grittier role as FBI agent Emily Byrne in this crime series on which she’s also an executive producer. Idyllic early scenes of Emily with her husband, Nick (Patrick Heusinger), young son and bouncy dog soon give way to a more brutal picture of her being held captive and viciously assaulted. The violent attacks are inserted into the opening episode like punches.

Patrick Heusinger as Nick Durand and Neil Jackson as Jack Byrne in Absentia.

Patrick Heusinger as Nick Durand and Neil Jackson as Jack Byrne in Absentia.

The plot pivots on the discovery that Emily, who had for years been presumed dead, is found alive. She disappeared while hunting a Boston serial killer whose signature was to slice off his victims’ eyelids. Following her release from captivity, her attempts to return to her former life are fraught. And then there’s a body found in the river: the corpse is missing eyelids.

The double-episode opener sees several incredible plot leaps in order to keep the action pumping. And a warning for those who prefer to avoid screen violence: the scenes of Emily’s torture are disturbing. This is Absentia‘s free-to-air premiere, although two seasons are available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Getting Their Acts Together
ABC, 9.30pm
Assembling a stimulating, varied and appealing program for the Adelaide Festival on the eve of its 60th anniversary was a responsibility that weighed heavily on joint artistic directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy. They wanted to honour the Festival’s legacy, create a program that would, as Healy describes it, “feed the soul”, and build on the crowds that they have previously attracted.

But there was a succession of hurdles to overcome, from logistical problems such as schedule conflicts, to budget considerations and health and safety issues. And there was also the need for them to agree on the merits of the 76 productions to be included.

This behind-the-scenes account of how the duo constructed the March 2020 event (days before pandemic lockdown) offers a revealing insight into the process. It picks up with them touring Europe and the UK, with the deadline looming for the program to be finalised. There’s little showbiz glamour as they determinedly trudge through airports, hotels and cities in search of gems.

Wednesday

Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery (series return)
ABC, 8pm
Julia Zemiro opens the eighth season of her interview profile series with a “bona fide national treasure”. In rainy Wollongong, she meets Karl Kruszelnicki, known far and wide, and with considerable affection, as Dr Karl. He’s a scientist, doctor and broadcaster with an upbeat persona that matches his brightly coloured shirts, an enthusiast who makes science accessible to many who can find it baffling.

Julia Zemiro with Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.

Julia Zemiro with Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.Credit:ABC

Together, they visit his childhood home as he recalls being something of an outcast because he wasn’t Irish Catholic. Also, he reckons that, as a child, he was “lonely, geeky… fairly solitary and very shy”. The pair moves on in a VW Beetle to his high school, then the Port Kembla steelworks to discuss his time there as a maths and physics graduate, before he made the decision to study medicine.

Dr Karl is a forthcoming subject who explains that, while he’s knowledgeable, he’s “not particularly smart”. Those who’ve benefited from his work over the years might disagree.

Bodyguard
Seven, 8.45pm
This gripping six-part thriller debuted on Netflix, but here’s your chance to catch it for free. The 20-minute opening sequence masterfully sets the scene, introducing the title character and the volatile political climate. Former soldier David Budd (Richard Madden), now a London police sergeant, demonstrates his skill in an explosive situation and is subsequently seconded to work as a bodyguard for hard-line Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes).

Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes in Bodyguard.

Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes in Bodyguard.Credit:BBC

Their developing relationship and the combustible state of the nation form a major part of the drama, which is expertly plotted by writer Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty). Madden plays Budd like a time bomb poised to detonate, revealing a man scarred by his wartime experiences. Hawes is excellent as the hawkish politician and Mercurio keeps the twists coming through to the finale.

Thursday

Grand Designs Australia
ABC, 8.30pm
Warwick Noble and Melanie Hughes are enchanted by the 1950s. They love the clothes, the colours, the music, the furniture and the architecture. So when the time comes to upgrade their North Balgowlah cottage, many of their aspirations are informed by their devotion to that period. In particular, they’re inspired by the house that architect Harry Seidler built for this mother, Rose. They appreciate the clean lines, airy spaces and playful spirit of the building, and they hope to achieve a comparable outcome.

A major challenge is marrying a clutter-free modernist aesthetic with the requirements of family life: as host Peter Maddison notes, their new home needs to be “sticky-finger friendly”. How they fare combining their dream and their domestic reality is chronicled in this 2015 episode, which originally screened on Foxtel’s Lifestyle channel.

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Law & Order: SVU
Ten, 8.45pm
You’ve got to give Mariska Hargitay credit for endurance: she’s the only original cast member still on this spin-off from Dick Wolf’s original Law & Order and she’s stuck with the show for 21 seasons. In that time, her character, Olivia Benson, has worked her way to the top of the small squad investigating sex crimes and her unit now has a distinctly female feel, with Benson working alongside Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish). In this episode, the more experienced detectives are joined by a younger officer (Jamie Gray Hyder) whose background affords her a working knowledge of the area when a teenage girl is assaulted in a stairwell in “the projects”. The investigation unexpectedly reveals a connection to a case that was ostensibly solved years earlier. There’s little especially exciting about this formula-driven crime show, but it continues to plug away.

Friday

Jamie: Keep Cooking and Carry On
Ten, 7.30pm
A few of weeks ago, when Britain seriously went in to lockdown, this well-meaning series from Jamie Oliver suddenly went somewhere really interesting. He wasn’t allowed go to the “kitchen” where he normally films his shows; his crew – including hair and makeup – weren’t allowed in his house.

Instead there’s Mr Oliver looking like he just got out of bed, filming himself on his smartphone in some kind of mudroom or butler’s pantry, with his wife Jools on second unit – which is to say, her phone. In this ep he’s managed to brush his hair but everything still has a delightful rough’n’ready vibe as he cooks a birthday cake for his 11-year-old daughter. He runs out of the sugar he needs. Jools has to chase after the kids so now it’s eight-year-old Buddy filming the close-ups. Three-year-old River appears demanding chocolate, then walks all over the prep area. In short, I’m pretty sure we’re getting a look at the actual Oliver family in their natural state.

Jamie Oliver enlists his family as crew in his iso-cooking show.

Jamie Oliver enlists his family as crew in his iso-cooking show.Credit:Network Ten

Saturday

How It’s Made
9Now*
This family-friendly show delivers exactly what it says on the box, taking us inside the production process of everyday items: tennis balls, contact lenses, crayons, tin foil, guitars. (Over 32 seasons, it’s covered just about anything you could name.) Sometimes that process is highly automated. Sometimes it’s surprisingly hands-on. It’s no Richard Hammond-style high-octane adventure.

How It’s Made is no-frills and down-to-earth, but that’s the appeal: short, snappy segments that tell you everything you need to know, and nothing more. If there’s a geek of any age in your household who loves accumulating arcane facts, this is bound to please.

Sunday

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Maralinga Tjarutja
ABC, 7.40pm
In 1953, the Brits decided to set off an atomic bomb at Maralinga, in South Australia’s Western Desert, because as far as they were concerned there was nothing there. In fact, there was not only exquisite desert country full of unique flora and fauna “there”, the area had been home for tens of thousands of years to several groups of Indigenous people. This much we know.

What makes this documentary so wonderful – if often troubling – is that almost every scene reveals something both astonishing and essential to our understanding of our own history. But, as with so much about Australia since colonisation, each fragment of information has only been uncovered through painstaking effort. Maralinga Tjarutja is certainly an education. It’s also quite beautiful, combining contemporary and archival footage with drawings and animations by Western Desert artists to bring us to an end point that is as uplifting as it is thought-provoking.

*Nine is the owner of this masthead.

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