Once Upon a Time.

The cast of Once Upon a Time.

Once upon a Time, Channel Seven, 7.30pm

IN THE sixth episode of a series that divides its time between a turbulent fairytale world and the cursed contemporary town of Storybrooke, Maine, the focus is on Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) and his modern doppelganger, recovered amnesiac David Nolan. In the fairytale world there are secret twins, courageous quests, dragons and the hope of finding true love. There's also a king (one-time Neighbours resident Alan Dale) trying to save his kingdom by doing various dark deals. In Storybrooke, though, it's all about thwarted love and the passion that David feels not for his wife but for demure school teacher Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin). While Lana Parrilla, as the fairytale world's evil queen and modern Maine's scheming mayor, glowers, glares and pouts, the best thing about the show remains Robert Carlyle as Storybrooke's evil antique-shop owner and the fairytale world's devilish dealer in choices, Rumpelstiltskin, all mouldy teeth, glinting eyes and manic giggles.

The Office, Channel Eleven, 9pm

GIVEN its origins, it's amazing that this series worked at all. Initially, apart from what seemed like a misguided desire to clone a British hit, there seemed no good reason why anyone should try to adapt Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's brilliant comedy into an American version. But, silencing the sceptics, the show worked, with Steve Carell taking on the role that seemed to fit Gervais like a glove and the writers adjusting the show for its new market, making it less piercing and a bit warmer, but still appreciably awkward. However, towards the end of its eighth season, and now missing the spark provided by Carell, it's a flat production. Even the casting of comedians such as Catherine Tate as the manipulative Nellie Bertram have failed to rekindle the fire. Directed by Rainn Wilson, who plays Dwight, ''Get the Girl'' involves Andy (Ed Helms) taking off for Tallahassee to declare his love for Erin (Ellie Kemper) and Nellie seizing the chance to install herself as manager.

Jennifer Byrne Presents: Erotica, ABC1, 10pm

IN A lively special edition of First Tuesday Book Club, host Jennifer Byrne questions authors Linda Jaivin, David Malouf, Eddie Sharp and Krissy Kneen about erotic literature: what is it and how does it differ from pornography? Well prepared for that topic, Jaivin happily quotes Woody Allen: ''With erotica, you use a feather; with pornography, the whole chicken.'' The discussion moves from general admiration for Anais Nin through mentions of Fanny Hill, Lady Chatterley's Lover and The Portrait of a Lady. Attention is also briefly devoted to the current bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey, which is not held in high regard by Kneen.

Pictures of You, Channel Seven, 9.30pm

IT'S A simple and effective concept: invite smart and frequently funny people, each of whom has achieved success in a different field - entertainment, sport, politics - to recall their formative years, using photographs as the springboard. These snapshots of childhood, adolescence and family life, chosen by the subject, might record milestone events or minor aberrations, but, either way, they are fertile prompts that lead to a rich range of reflections. Interviewed individually, guests are gently led through their accounts of these experiences by host Brian Nankervis and play to a warmly appreciative studio audience. This episode features English comedian Ross Noble and champion surfer Layne Beachley. The only thing that's hard to understand is why Channel Seven has programmed the show so late, because it seems tailor-made for an earlier slot and a family audience.

DEBI ENKER

Race to London: series premiere ABC1, Tuesday, 8pm

MANY athletes have tried to achieve greatness by winning gold for their country at the Olympics. Only the greatest do.

For weeks we've been reminded the London Olympics are approaching and, yes, dreams are on the line again. Yet, in truth, the quest for glory started some time ago - with gruelling training sessions and selection trials. So, what does it take to represent Australia?

That is the question this highly watchable, six-part documentary series sets out to answer. The premise is simple enough: follow the journey of six contenders in the year leading up to the London Olympics and Paralympics as they fight for a place on the Australian team. There's wheelchair rugby player Ryley Batt, para-equestrian rider Grace Bowman, former Oarsome Foursome rower Drew Ginn, Paralympic swimming hopeful Ahmed Kelly and swimming champions Libby Trickett and Michael Klim (both staging comebacks after retirement).

Taking its cue from Recruits and other observational documentary series, Race to London shows the athletes dealing with the highs and lows of elite sport (including insights from coaches) and offers glimpses of life away from the sporting arena - Trickett's husband features prominently in the first two episodes. There are echoes, too, of Australian Story as the athletes' pasts are explored via solid archival footage.

Yet the real strength of this series lies in its casting. Each of the six athletes has a remarkable story (the inclusion of two high-profile swimmers hoping to make their Olympic comebacks is a blessing) and the various threads are skilfully woven together. If there is another element Race to London handles particularly well, it's allowing the stories to unfold naturally - there is no manufactured tension, no overblown sense of drama.

Sure, the payoff is somewhat diluted - however over a month out from the London Olympics, and not all the teams have been finalised.

In tonight's episode, Trickett is out of retirement and fighting to regain her competitive edge in the pool before the Asian leg of the World Cup. Meanwhile, Ginn, who was told he'd never row again after back surgery, is tested during a time trial.

But the real hook is the journey of Kelly, who was born in Baghdad with significant limb deficiencies (his brother Emmanuel was a contestant on The X Factor last year). Tonight he's in the pool trying to shave seconds off his race time to qualify for his first Paralympics.

It's an inspiring story and Kelly's journey takes on greater poignancy when contrasted with the successful careers of Trickett and Ginn, both triple Olympic gold medallists.

Race to London is the type of factual series the national broadcaster does best. And what better way to whet the appetite as the Olympics draw closer?

MATTHEW BURGESS