License article

Wednesday, June 20

Life's Too Short, ABC1, 9pm

CRITICS overseas complained that this latest offering from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant is too similar to their previous Extras and The Office, which is a bit like accusing the Beach Boys of sounding too much like the Beach Boys. This takes up where those other shows left off, a cringe-inducing, mockumentary-style take-down of a day in the life of a struggling actor - who happens to be a 106-centimetre thespian, the go-to-guy when casting dwarves. Warwick Davis may be a down-on-his-luck outcast, but he is also an obnoxious and obsequious fellow, whose self-delusion and vanity evoke our sympathies. Gervais, Merchant and Davis refuse to soften their politically incorrect satire. Tonight's episode starts out flat, but has a priceless scene in which actor Johnny Depp confronts Gervais about the insults he dished up while hosting the Golden Globes.

Louis Theroux: Law and Disorder in Johannesburg, ABC2, 8.30pm

A SOUTH African farmer pays a private security company a monthly fee to protect his cattle from thieves. He knows perfectly well the type of techniques the security enforcers-cum-vigilantes use. It is, the white farmer concedes, ''an African solution for an African problem''. Louis Theroux certainly earns points for intrepidity in this disturbing report on how people in one of the world's most violent cities are dealing with law and order. He joins the nightly rounds of security operators, witnesses the horrific retribution served upon suspected criminals and talks to hardened sadists, who will literally do anything for the contents of someone's wallet.

Offspring, Channel Ten, 8.30pm

THE third season of this Melbourne-shot dramedy is proving the best, with satisfying romantic hook-ups being played out - for instance, between Mick (Eddie Perfect) and Rosanna (Clare Bowditch) and the invigorated, on-the-rebound Nina (Asher Keddie) and Adam (Kick Gurry) - and the cliffhanger involving the premature baby that Zara (Jane Harber) has delivered. Less convincing is the affair between Deborah Mailman's Cherie and her weirdo boss (Lachy Hulme).


RPA, Channel Nine, 10pm

IT'S something of a surprise to discover that Channel Nine's stalwart observational documentary series has evolved into the terrain we associate with ''shockumentary''. While its focus remains the stoic and brave patients at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, much of tonight's episode consists of squirm-inducing footage from the operating theatre. Modern medical imaging means audiences can now watch the brain surgeon as he slices through the jelly-like grey matter of a patient, in search of a tiny blood vessel. Unlike the ''extreme surgery'' shows that proliferate on pay TV, RPA never lets us forget that the patients, their families and carers are as human as the rest of us. Still, you might find yourself averting your eyes.

Ross Kemp: Extreme World: Chicago, ABC2, 10pm

ROSS Kemp takes an access-all-areas tour of Chicago's flourishing heroin scene, a journey that takes him from homeless addicts and soccer mums to stash houses and shooting galleries.