Sunday, May 13
Queen Elizabeth II ... The Diamond Queen.
The Diamond Queen, ABC1, 7.30pm
Oh, the stuffy royals - they don't contribute anything and waste taxpayers' money. Right? Well, hold on a moment. The Queen's been at it 60 years, so maybe it's time for the doubters to reflect on what she's actually achieved.
That's the premise of this three-part series, which follows the Queen's working life for 1½ years for her diamond jubilee. What could have been a tedious story about a ''life of turning up and reading official papers'' - or a fawning portrait of her maj - is, in fact, quite fascinating.
This clear-eyed, well-constructed production, presented by British journalist and political commentator Andrew Marr, doesn't so much analyse the Queen herself as look at what her role represents and its place in history, as told through archival footage, historical papers, candid interviews with relatives and talks with leaders.
As a child, a rather serious Elizabeth Windsor never expected to become Queen but after her uncle surrendered the throne and her father died suddenly, she found herself thrust into public life at 25. ''Think about how young that is for somebody to take on this incredible responsibility,'' her granddaughter, Beatrice, hardly needs to say. Since then Elizabeth II has served well as a ''proper professional at her trade'', ''a symbol of the country on legs'', ''reader No.1'', ''an adornment'', England's ''department of friendliness'' and, not least of all, ''granny''.
This program reminds us the Queen was born in a Europe marred by conflict and that she represents a new, very different style of monarchy. She's also had a ringside seat to history and outlasted a dozen British prime ministers. The question is: was this all a happy accident or part of a shrewd master plan? If only the Queen herself would tell us.
Compass: Hospital Chaplains, ABC1, 6.30pm
There isn't much to say when someone knows they are dying. Anyone who has experienced serious illness knows it induces lots of sad, silent moments and plenty of introspection. A hospital chaplain might provide company and a few words of spiritual support but there is little else they can do. That's a problem for this episode, which looks at the "good grief" people deal with when facing death.
While patients rely on the religious guidance provided by chaplains of many faiths, the quiet moments between the two groups don't always translate into captivating television.
But the patients' stories are compelling, especially that of 67-year-old Jacqui, a non-drinker who has chronic liver disease. "Often there is no answer," her chaplain says. A couple of hardy survivors also show how humour can trump even the toughest illness.
Suburgatory, GO!, 8.30pm
Suburbia sucks, OK? That's pretty much the premise of this snappy, yet hardly subtle, sitcom. Tessa (Jane Levy) and her father, George (Jeremy Sisto), have escaped New York City for a "regular life" in the suburbs, but unfortunately they seem to be the only two humans who inhabit this plastic world. Every other vapid creature is self-obsessed and over the top.
The Hollywood Complex, ABC2, 8.30pm
Speaking of vapid and self-obsessed, there is another place in the US where such creatures gather. It's a Hollywood housing complex called Oakwood, where parents of wannabe child stars bring their families each year for "pilot season", a three-month casting window when children act, dance and sing their way to fame - or not.
Not surprisingly, the story is littered with financial ruin, broken marriages and emotional breakdowns. All of which makes it fascinating to watch. Some of the youngsters do make the "miracle" happen and land a speaking role on TV. Others aren't so lucky. Either way, it's disturbing to watch as agents scam parents, kids learn to cry on cue and one mother joins Scientology as a strategy to get closer to Hollywood stars.
Real Rescues, Bio, 3.30pm
Despite first-hand accounts, footage from the scene and blaring sirens, this ''day in the life'' look at the emergency services is plodding. A five-car pile up near Portsmouth, a little girl with croup and a driver who has a lucky escape when she loses control of her car are the best of the batch. It's great no one gets seriously hurt but without high drama there's little encouragement to keep watching.
Lip Service, Showcase, 7.30pm
It's no The L Word but it's good to see Glasgow's favourite lesbians back for a second season, picking up exactly where season one left off. Frankie (Ruta Gedmintas), the most self-absorbed woman on the planet, is moping about, waiting to find out if her former lover Cat will resume their illicit affair and dump current, adoring cop-girlfriend Sam (Heather Peace). Meanwhile the infinitely more likeable Tess (Fiona Button), who fell for a sporty dyke in season one, is getting a wee bit tired of watching games from the sidelines. There's a couple of new cast members. One to watch is Lexy (Anna Skellern), an Australian doctor who ends up becoming the pointy end of an interesting love triangle in later episodes. Despite patchy acting, season two is packed with plenty of sex, drugs and drama - and at least one scene that will leave fans reeling.
After the Wedding (2006) SBS One, 9.25pm
Jacob Pederson manages an orphanage in Mumbai. When an offer of funding arrives from Jorgen Hannson, a wealthy entrepreneur, he returns to Denmark to meet him. Hannson invites Pederson to his daughter's wedding where the aid worker duly meets Mrs Hannson. She seems familiar. And indeed she is. They were exceedingly familiar some years earlier. The bride's speech turns out to be devastating for Jacob and, indirectly, for one of his Indian orphans, a kid Jacob has pledged to adopt himself. Responsibility for children is the pivotal element of another thought-provoking film by Susanne Bier whose Open Hearts (2002) and Brothers (2004) also revolve around unusual moral dilemmas.
Terms of Endearment (1983) ABC1, 10.55pm
A film that is both slyly funny and sitcom tragic. If you feel tears welling up it's probably soap in your eyes. A mother and daughter, at cross purposes for years, try to reconcile their differences and re-establish unconditional affection when the daughter is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Her widowed mother is barely coping with a persistent (retired) astronaut next door who wants to slip the surly bonds of her personal garments. It's anti-feminist in a devious way and all a bit twee really but you hardly notice thanks to effervescent acting by Debra Winger, Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson.
The 13 Roses (2007) SBS One, 11.35pm
Elements of Spain's Catholic hierarchy railed at elements of the 2006 film Pan's Labyrinth due to perceptions of a vigorous anti-fascist/anti-church undercurrent in the story. Inconvenient truths from the darkest days of the Franco era are recalled in this drama, based on actual events and concerning the fate of 13 women chronicled in Carlos Fonseca's book Las Trece Rosas Rojas. The young women from common backgrounds and with no history of activism were arrested shortly after the conclusion of the Spanish Civil War and executed for supposed support of the Republican government. They were among thousands rounded up for reprisal, flung into overcrowded jails and subjected to hasty trials. Of the 13 whose fate is chronicled here, most were little more than girls who had joined social clubs and youth organisations with little if any political involvement. The oldest was executed for helping a known communist and fellow musician evade fascist repression.