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Frothy period piece: The Paradise.

FREE TO AIR

The Paradise, ABC1, 7.30pm
I can't imagine the great French writer Emile Zola imagined these upper-class toffs, pretty working class girls and English waifs when he penned Au Bonheur des Dames, but his fluffily bourgeois inquiry translates well to The Paradise, set in north-east England of the same era. The second series of the BBC costume drama comes to a satisfying end with resolutions and promises but not before the drama of the previous 15 episodes is brought to a rolling boil, with Katherine (Elaine Cassidy) contemplating taking a one-way ticket out of her loveless marriage (''I love the river when it is like this,'' says her unsuspecting step-daughter, unaware Mama has other intentions for the water; ''all deep and still and quiet''.) Social class remains an ever-present plot driver, although even loathsome bully Tom (Ben Daniels) manages to show a flash of tortured humanity in the midst of his conniving and scheming. All froth and elegance, The Paradise is a guilt-free costume confection.

Filthy Cities, ABC2, 7.30pm
I'm not convinced host Dan Snow isn't over-egging the souffle when he asserts 18th-century Paris' revolting squalor was the driving factor for the French Revolution, but nonetheless there's plenty of grotty fun in this micro-history of an era that sanitation forgot. From genuinely horrifying stories of overflowing cemeteries to the toileting challenges of the Versailles royal court (what, no portaloos?), this episode of Filthy Cities wallows happily in the filth, while tasking a perfumier with recreating the stench of 1789 Paris puts the olfactorial into historical.

In Plain Sight, Eleven, 10.30pm
The New Mexico setting provides grit to this cop drama, with plenty of fruity colloquialisms (try ''asshat'' on for size) and the odd barely intelligible southern accent, but thankfully Mary McCormack as Deputy US Marshal Mary Shannon comes direct from the clear-speaking school of Hollywood coppers. The nonconformist witness protection officer in the series' penultimate episode this week comes under surveillance from the FBI thanks to her dad (the aforementioned asshat) a gambling-addicted conman who may or may not have cancer and who may or may not be on the run trying to track down nemesis Sully. Philosophical voiceovers, an emotionally affecting denouement and reliably good hair balance the ledger of a pretty absurd plot.

LARISSA DUBECKI


PAY TV

Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, TLC, 6.30pm
It's great to see TLC giving us a chance to catch up on Anthony Bourdain's latest Emmy-winning series, which originally screened on CNN. Part of the reason Bourdain made the move to CNN was the news network's experience in difficult and dangerous places. In this first series he visits Libya, Colombia, the Congo and Myanmar, as well as places that are less exotic but interesting nonetheless. Here we find Bourdain in Los Angeles' Koreatown district. Visits to traditional Korean restaurants and funky fusion food trucks are put on hold as we get a fascinating primer on how and why the city's Korean community came to populate the area and how they banded together to defend their homes and businesses when police abandoned them during the 1992 riots. You can also catch the Myanmar episode at 4.30pm.

Justified, FX, 7.30pm
The spirit of Elmore Leonard lives on as this thicket of characters continues to produce a unique blend of wry chuckles and startling violence. Australian Damon Herriman remains hilarious as redneck lowlife Dewey Crowe. Tonight, Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) has to ride to the rescue of teenager Loretta (Kaitlyn Dever), who is involved in a dangerous drug scene.

BRAD NEWSOME

 


 

MOVIES

The Last Samurai (2003) Go!, 8.40pm
A hero of General Custer's crusade against Native Americans, Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is haunted by the massacres of innocent women and children, by the barbarities that exist outside the generally agreed ethics of battle. When he is commissioned to train soldiers for the Japanese emperor, the alcohol-addicted and self-loathing Algren is pushed into a journey towards redemption.

Rebels are destabilising the emperor's rule, and he needs the expertise and weapons of the West.

And in an extraordinary sequence in a forest, Algren leads his untrained men against the samurais of rebel leader Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). Algren soon realises that he is fighting on the wrong side.

Directed by Edward Zwick, who is deeply in the thrall of war (Glory, Courage Under Fire, Defiance), The Last Samurai is a grand epic, with sweeping horizons and challenging issues, building as most of his films do to a well-crafted and powerful conclusion.

However, Zwick's passion can sometimes also be his downfall. He is so in love with the codes of conflict and what constitutes acceptable behaviour that he fails to sufficiently question whether such finely etched notions really matter when people are being slaughtered everywhere.

District B13: Ultimatum (2009) SBS One, 11.25pm
Before French director Pierre Morel shut down people's brains with Taken, he debuted with District B13, a crime story set in one of Paris's most-dangerous suburbs. It was a hit, so inevitably he has returned to the neighbourhood, this time with gang bosses at war. Produced and written yet again by Luc Besson, who has been involved in so many films he is now the cinematic equivalent of novelist-epicurean Alexandre Dumas, overseeing a vast empire from his Rue d'Artois mansion, his favourite restaurant, Apicius, nestled safely inside.

SCOTT MURRAY