Luke Arnold as Michael Hutchence in <i>INXS Never Tear Us Apart</i>.

Luke Arnold as Michael Hutchence in INXS Never Tear Us Apart. Photo: Narelle Sheehan

INXS: NEVER TEAR US APART
★★★½
Sunday 8.30pm, Seven

This is the kind of project that could have gone horribly pear-shaped. Any story about a rock'n'roll band can so easily tip into cliche (especially when that rock'n'roll band lived the cliche). Finding actors who look the part and can do the job without lapsing into arch impersonation is always fraught. Even having two of the original key players at work behind the scenes (Guitarist Tim Farriss and long-time INXS manager Chris Murphy) can be a poisoned chalice. Too often the people involved in a story only want the sanitised version made public. But against those odds, Never Tear Us Apart succeeds. Whatever Farriss and Murphy decided to leave out (there must be something), what they unquestionably brought to the table was a thorough and clear-eyed understanding of the characters involved. For anyone not intimately acquainted with the INXS story, one of the most satisfying aspects of this first episode is the way it allows us to get to know a group of people who have always been just names and famous faces. Keyboardist/song writer Andrew Farriss in particular emerges as a fascinating character, and in the relationship between him and Michael Hutchence we see both the blossoming of the band's incredible success, and the seeds of its demise. Then there's the casting. There are some recognisable faces here: Damon Herriman as Murphy, Hugh Sheridan as Garry Beers. But it's the lesser-knowns who really impress. Alex Williams is clearly a talented young man. He completely became Julian Assange in Underground, yet here he transforms utterly convincingly into Kirk Pengilly. And in the performance on which the whole story hangs, Luke Arnold as Hutchence is extraordinary. There's certainly a believable physical resemblance: the build, the hair. What's remarkable, though, is the way Arnold has nailed the little things that made Hutchence Hutchence, a charming swagger, the 1000-watt smile, an ebullient confidence always just the right side of arrogance. This first episode makes plentiful and effective use of the band's visual and audio archive and takes us from the early days on the Perth pub scene to the heights of the 1988 Kick tour of the US and a clean sweep at the Grammys, bookended by footage of the 1991 concert at Wembley Stadium. It's an exhilarating ride, but you know what they say about the higher you get.

 

Richard Roxburgh as Cleaver Greene in <i>Rake</i>.

Richard Roxburgh as Cleaver Greene in Rake. Photo: Supplied

RAKE
★★★½
Sunday 8.30pm, ABC1

This irreverent series certainly has a dedicated following but I haven't always been part of the cheer squad. Some episodes have been terrific, some not so much. And - I say this with the greatest respect and affection - the less I see of Richard Roxburgh in the nude, the better. This first episode of season three, though, is a blinder. Written by Peter Duncan and directed by Jessica Hobbs, everyone has resisted the temptation to immediately spring Cleaver Greene (Roxburgh) from jail and return to business as usual. Instead they explore what life might be like for our flawed hero behind bars, an environment not too dissimilar to life at the bar. Power games, pecking orders, fast talking and rat cunning are the order of the day, as Cleaver negotiates his way around this new world. Casting Bruce Spence as the prison kingpin and psychopath was also a stroke of genius. And as for Dan Wylllie as Cleaver's hopelessly devoted cellmate? Priceless.

 

THE RETURNED
★★★½
Sunday 8.30pm, ABC1

If the relentless gore of The Walking Dead is a bit too much for you, try this: a superb French psychological thriller that brings a whole new twist to the zombie universe. Two teenagers, dead for years, suddenly turn up at their own front doors: the same age as when they died, completely unmarked, completely unaware that they've been dead, and (creepily) with ravenous appetites. They're not craving human flesh. They're just really, really hungry. One of the ongoing pleasures - and freak-out factors - of The Returned is the way it imbues all kinds of perfectly ordinary occurrences with deep menace. The other satisfying thing is the incredibly complex emotions evoked by the return of these children to their families. All parents must wish a dead child would return but if they actually did? Well, that's a whole other matter. Gorgeously produced, really clever and genuinely scary.

 

MEXICAN FEAST WITH PETER KURAVITA
★★★½
Thursday 7.30pm, SBS One

Corn, tomato, chocolate, chillies. What would food - indeed, the world - be without them? That's the charming Peter Kuravita's starting point for this exploration of Mexico, its culture and its cuisine. He begins in Chihuahua, showing us all the ways in which Mexico's complex social history has influenced the evolution of its food. His Sri Lankan heritage makes him perfectly placed to explore a whole new universe of chillies, and he also has a knack of explaining food flavours and textures. You never just hear him exclaim "Yum!". He thinks about it, tells us what he's experiencing as he eats, then pronounces his verdict. It really helps us to taste along with him. (What's more, he goes through the same process getting sloshed on tequila.)