Thursday, December 27
Free to Air
A Current Affair
2.5,5 Nine, 6.30pm
The enduring appeal of A Current Affair (and Today Tonight, for that matter) is something of a mystery to those of us who only see the promos or The Hamster Wheel taking the mickey. But watch a few episodes and you realise ACA has created its own sort of universe, one in which millions of people obviously feel very comfortable.
ACA long ago abandoned the austere sets of a conventional news or current affairs program, just as it long ago abandoned actually addressing news or current affairs. The visual style clearly says "entertainment", and like any good drama, ACA pushes a kind of heightened reality in which petty misdemeanours become public outrages and minor mishaps major tragedies.
There is also a very transparent formula to the stories, and the story mix, which revolve around two powerful human emotions: fear and greed. Kids out of control, crazy drivers, ruthless scammers – that's the fear factor. Then there's the pretty stuff to close out the 30 minutes, usually a shameless advertorial for some kind of indulgence or lifestyle enhancement to have us dreaming of the day we too can be rich, thin and beautiful.
3.5,5 Nine, 7.30pm
My distant memory of Getaway was of an overwrought advertorial for destinations that looked either too dull or too plastic to really tempt. But a recent revisit proved the memories wrong. The presenters were enthusiastic but not excessively so, and there was a good mix of interesting holidays for a range of budgets, some of which were clearly aspirational but many very doable.
Not rocket science, but a very pleasant way to spend a summer evening.
4,5 ABC1, 8.30pm
Rachel Perkins directs the final instalment in this sensational series, in a story written by Steven McGregor that sums everything up beautifully, literally and figuratively. One of the distinguishing features of Redfern Now has been its ability to provide a really complex, multifaceted examination of issues, and that has never been more true than it is here. Local cop Aaron has featured in several tales, and tonight it's his turn to take centre stage. He's a wonderful character: homely and daggy, placid and world-weary; as an actor Wayne Blair, is one of those people who can convey a world through his stillness. He's partnered tonight by an excellent Stephen Curry, and if this tale is bleaker than most at its heart, it's the theme that has run through all these stories: you get knocked down, you get back up again.
Once upon a Time
3.5,5 Seven, 7.30pm
One of the most enjoyable things about Once upon a Time is its supercharged girl power. While knights and princes lend a hand, the story – and the action – remain firmly seated with an ever- expanding cast of feisty females. Regina, of course, has always dominated, and tonight has much to do, not least cleaning up the mess the blokes have made when Daniel comes back to life, but not as we know him. Meanwhile, in never-never land, the ferocious foursome of Emma, Snow, Aurora and Mulan unearth (a living) Captain Hook from a pile of corpses and decide to make use of him.
As this potted plot summary indicates, there's no doubt this is a remarkably silly series, but that's all part of the fun. What myth, fable or childhood tale will be dismantled and re-imagined next? It's certainly an infinitely rich resource, and there's also real pleasure in watching Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz take everything they learnt working on Lost (including what not to do) and employ it here in this very different form.
We may be moving through multiple realities in the company of characters with multiple personalities, but there's the sense that not only does each step have a purpose, there is a final destination.
(1997) Starpics (pay TV), 8.30pm
John Woo's best American movie is a gloriously overblown action epic about the nature of identity. Obsessive FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) captures international criminal Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) but in order to learn the details of the scheme his adversary has already set under way, he has his own face surgically removed and the incapacitated Troy's grafted on. When the villain unexpectedly awakens, the only available face is his foe's, leaving the two men to enter each other's worlds. The Shakespearean idea of masks is taken to its nutty zenith as the criminal with a cop's face flaunts his power and upends the depressed family dynamic, while the cop with the criminal's face finds unexpected nuance within the underworld. Woo stages elaborate battles that are choreographed with Balanchine-like care and shown in fetishistic slow motion. The film is an effective cheap pleasure because the two leads supply suitably operatic-pitch performances of grand emotion.
The Hangover Part II
(2011) Movie One (pay TV), 10.05pm
Aside from changing the setting to Bangkok from Las Vegas, The Hangover Part II is essentially a remake of the original film, a raucous 2009 hit that played as a kind of a nightmarishly comic mystery where a group of comparatively privileged white males slowly discovered what happened to them during a bachelor party bender. The problem is that director Todd Phillips is so slavish in his re-enactment - the structure, the dynamic, some of the cameos, a musical interlude and the end credit sequence are all repeated - that the film acquires a strangely dutiful tone; the shenanigans are scheduled. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis return as the disruptive trio and where the first film allowed the latter to surreptitiously display his talent for naive idiots, the sequel makes Galifianakis a prominent feature as Phillips cuts to him repeatedly. The film was plainly shot on location in the Thai capital but the city is little more than a backdrop for American antics.
Hunting and Gathering
(2007) SBS Two, 11.15pm
Audrey Tautou plays a young Parisian who gradually warms to Guillaume Canet's grumpy chef when she befriends his equally tough, but failing, grandmother.
Shark Week's 25 Best Bites
Discovery, 1.30pm, 11.30pm
This collection of clips from 25 years worth of Shark Week documentaries is nothing short of amazing, even if it does have a particularly annoying host in YouTube celebrity Philip DeFranco. The first scene has doco presenter Charles Ingram doing a piece to camera from an inflatable boat, only for a great white shark to come out of nowhere and chomp into it. Then there's the startling sight of biologist Rocky Strong sitting precariously atop a slippery whale carcass that's being shaken and torn in a great-white feeding frenzy. Not everybody gets away with such things - we also see extremely gory footage of shark scientist Erich Ritter having his calf muscle ripped out by a bull shark. Much of the documentary, though, celebrates the amazing achievements of the doco makers in getting incredible footage, from high-definition overhead shots of great whites exploding out of the water in South Africa to scenes of whale sharks and giant schools of hammerheads.
The New Pioneers: Virgin Galactic
National Geographic, 8.30pm
An interesting documentary about the making of SpaceShipTwo, the air-launched spaceplane that Richard Branson hopes will usher in a new age of space tourism. The engineers have a two-part job: first they have to design and build the mother-plane that will carry SpaceShipTwo to an altitude from which it can blast off. Even tougher, no doubt, will be Branson's job of convincing people to part with a lot of money to take a ride in the resulting spaceship.