Shuffler and sprinter: two tales in history

Legend has it that Cliff Young would run into town from his farm to buy something at the shops. Then run home - a trip of 40 kilometres. In 1983, Cliffy ran to the shops again … this time the journey was 875 kilometres, from a shopping centre in Sydney to another in Melbourne. He was 61.

It's this trip that became the stuff of Aussie legend, the story of a potato farmer who trained by chasing his cows around a paddock, wearing gum boots. And in Cliffy (ABC1, Sunday, 8.30pm) the story gets the retelling it deserves.

Playing the man who shuffled his way into the hearts of the nation, Kevin Harrington is perfect. It would have been easy to oversimplify Cliffy, to allow us to laugh at the old bloke who still lived with his mum, didn't drink, smoke, eat meat or have any luck with the ladies.

But Harrington manages to recreate those famous images of Cliffy scuttling towards a glory he didn't seek and, despite the trademark economy of word and movement, digs deep into character.

The headline-grabbing oddities of the bloke have often overshadowed the genuine sporting achievement. But, 30 years on, it's nice to marvel at a 61-year-old man wearing his first pair of running shoes winning an ultra marathon against experienced athletes half his age. Go, Cliffy.

Naturally, the warm embrace of the Australian people was brief and we're given just a hint here of the fleeting nature of Young's fame. Since it wasn't what he sought, it mattered little.

Harrington is surrounded by a terrific cast, including Martin Sacks, Anne Tenney, Joan Sydney and Roy Billing, pitch-perfect as ever as Cliffy's mate and trainer.

The communist, tree-hugging, refugee-boat supporters at the ABC (according to columnists quoting a survey of ABC journalist voting intentions) will be pulling out their pot-smoking devices and lighting up as they and their leftie mates watch Whitlam: The Power and the Passion (ABC1, Sunday, 7.30pm).

As it turns out, this isn't a shallow puff piece on enigmatic former prime minister Gough Whitlam. It does make you yearn for politics of intelligence, vision, ideas and wit, but it also paints the warts onto the portrait. It's a name that divides.

Paul Clarke's work most often involves music, its history and power. Again, music is a key component here as he traces the political career of a big man who ''stood out like a pelican in a murder of crows''.

Old photographs, archival footage, recreations and a string of impressive talking heads all go to reveal the impact Gough had on his party, politics and the people. Sunday's first episode takes us through to the 1972 election victory, when everything seemed possible.

Narration by Judy Davis is the cream on top.