Adam Hills: Take His Legs
Previously available on 10Play but now having its night on the primary channel, Adam Hills’ moving and uplifting documentary is an account of his involvement with the Warrington Wolves, the UK’s first physical disability rugby league team.
The Wolves are aiming to qualify for the World Cup challenge in Sydney, which, for Hills and many of his teammates, would be the fulfilment of a dream. The film features profiles of many of the players as it chronicles the team’s progress. So, as a smiling Hills says at the outset, “Strap yourselves in and enjoy the madness.”
During his 80-minute documentary, George Gittoes tells us that he’s an artist and filmmaker who has spent many years covering war zones. For this project, he spent a year in Englewood, an embattled area south of Chicago besieged by gun violence. The film opens with images of bodies on the streets and footage of police gunning down black men trying to escape their questions.
The impression from the outset is of a community under fire, a place where the police are as much of a threat as rival gangs. Gittoes introduces a number of members of the Englewood community: reformed gang members trying to end the violence, rappers, young men who still intend to make their marks with their pistols, and victims of the violence. It’s an immersive yet meandering study of an area where solutions to the entrenched problems seem remote.
Sesame Street 50th season
ABC Kids, 9am
It begins, of course, with Elmo and, from there, as it marks its 50th season, this landmark children’s program continues to do what it does so well: colourful celebrations of community, upbeat musical numbers and a subtly delivered educational agenda. Nina and Big Bird embark on a road trip across America to visit Little Bird, their journey promising stops in many neighbourhoods and meetings with new friends. Meanwhile, Cookie Monster can’t stop himself from guzzling everything in sight and he and chef Gonger find time to visit a dairy farm to get milk for their food truck. Along the way, they learn how milk travels from the cow to the store shelf. Dave Grohl is the guest, the Letter of the Day is F and the Number of the Day is seven.
Bachelor in Paradise (premiere)
“This year, there’s more drama, more romance, more tears than ever before,” promises host and message-bearer Osher at the start of the new season of the romance play-off. Gathered at a Fijian resort and fuelled by an ample supply of cocktails is an assortment of previously luckless contenders from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
First arrival Timm struts around like a peacock as the others sashay in and everyone checks everyone else out. Abbie wants Ciarran and heads for him like a heat-seeking missile. But Ciarran seems keen on Cass. Uh oh. Meanwhile, Mary eyes Glenn, who seems interested in Helena. Timm gets the first two-on-one date while, at the bula banquet, questions are asked. Here we go again: stand by for bitching, bad behaviour, rose ceremonies and proud tattoo displays.
Hard Quiz (series return)
This quiz show featuring contestants who nominate their special subjects returns with a lively episode in which they arrive prepared to play “hard”. Tom Gleeson does his customary anti-quiz show host routine: no welcoming nice guy at the helm here to put the players at ease. He pokes fun at his guests and gloats if they make a mistake or have an answer “stolen” by one of their rivals. But, into the show’s fifth season, the players know the drill and are primed to fight back, and the combat is conducted with good humour.
There’s also an engaging mix of subjects: Alyce nominates Rafael Nadal; Mitchell chooses SpongeBob SquarePants; Oslo picks New Yorker cartoons; and Julie goes for dingoes. Oslo is the talented cartoonist Oslo Davis and it’s worth staying tuned to the end to see his take on the Hard Quiz experience.
The second episode of this observational documentary series filmed in the emergency department of The Royal Melbourne Hospital begins with the admission of a man who has multiple gunshots wounds. And stakes are high throughout. A 22-year-old who has suffered an injury playing football, seriously damaging his kidney. A pregnant woman who has been involved in a road accident. An American exchange student who has a seizure while waiting in the triage reception area. As the staff treats these patients, the episode inspires confidence in their capability and compassion, while also revealing that they’re the type of people who thrive on the unpredictability of working in this ward.
ABC Comedy, 9pm
The scene is deftly set from the outset in this comedy made for the BBC. Frazzled corporate events manager Julia (Anna Maxwell Martin) is trying to brush her hair while driving erratically as her kids squabble in the car’s back seat. She’s rushing them to school and making calls to her office, without being aware that it’s not a school day. And that’s just the start of a messy series of mishaps involving child-care problems, an unbending grandmother, a medical emergency and a group of stay-at-home mummies who are the grown-up equivalent of mean girls. But, along the way, in a series created and written by Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe), Graham Linehan, Helen Linehan and Holly Walsh, Julia discovers a couple of other parents who are also outcasts from the cool group, feisty single mum Liz (Diane Morgan) and try-hard dad Kevin (Paul Ready). It’s a blackly funny and spirited start that makes you want to see more.
Kenny Rogers: Biography
We all know Kenny Rogers as the guy who owns the fried chicken shop in that episode of Seinfeld, but apparently he also used to dabble in music, and this program explores this little-known part of the Rogers legacy. It’s quite a ride: a classic rags-to-riches tale of a boy starting out with nothing but a dream, a beard and the kind of resonant, world-weary voice that can make strong men weep.
It’s not exactly earth-shattering stuff – if you’re a fan of Rogers you probably know all this, and if you’re not a fan of Rogers you’ll get pretty sick of everyone gushing about how great he is. But it’s a cosy, catchy way to spend an hour, transported to a warm summer evening, on a train bound for nowhere.
The continuing adventures of John Beecham, a sensitive new age guy with the bad fortune to be living in India in 1795, a fleet of servants at his command whether he likes it or not. The titular mansion and lavish period setting make it clear what this series was supposed to be: Downton Abbey with an eastern twist. It puts up a brave show of trying to escape that inescapable conclusion, with its brooding hero, the odd flare of violence, and terribly worthy reflections on the dark side of the British Empire. But though it all looks quite beautiful, it tends toward the joyless, and ends up one of those shows you want to like, rather than one that you actually do.
There will come a day when the world shows proper gratitude for Brenda Blethyn. If there were any justice she’d be a legend in her own time, but for now we must make do with this long-running detective series, which performs the role that detective fiction has since the days of Sherlock Holmes: reassuring us that in a world filled with evil intentions and dark terrors, there are people of decency and intelligence standing ready to hold back the night.
DCI Vera Stanhope, that paragon of tough maternal integrity blended with quicksilver intuition, is the unflashy middle-aged nemesis of wrongdoers everywhere – or at least, in north-east England. In this episode she uncovers the disturbing heart of a seaside community while investigating the death of a teenage boy. Vera is no jolly Agatha Christie romp: the backdrops are frequently drab, the stories grim and the characters damaged. But in the middle of it all stands Blethyn as Vera: grumpy and troubled, but also brilliant, relentless, compassionate and sporting a Geordie accent to die for. Bless her.
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