License article

Best of Pay TV – from August 3

Burton and Taylor

Drama –  Sunday, 8.30pm, BBC First, 8/10

You’d kind of think there wasn’t much more to say about one of the great romances of the 20th century, but this superb telemovie chooses an episode with which I was completely unfamiliar and creates something fresh, meaningful and thoroughly involving from it. It’s not often that a TV show is still echoing through your thoughts hours later, but so it was here. The action covers a few months in 1983 when Elizabeth Taylor, just turned 50, persuades her former husband to join her in a Broadway production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives. In what is essentially a two-hander (from a script by William Ivory), not only do Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West completely and remarkably bring those two figures to life, the chemistry is sizzling. It’s also a wonderfully mature, heartfelt exploration of not just a great passion but the way in which sometimes a great passion is not a good foundation for a great relationship. From beginning to end this is hard to fault, and it’s a fabulous way to launch this new channel from the BBC, in a week that includes such diverse gems as the British version of Underbelly: Razor, Peaky Blinders (tonight, 7.30pm); David Tennant and Emily Watson in The Politician’s Husband (Monday, 8.30pm); and the Wodehouse-inspired Blandings (Saturday, 8.30pm).

Wild Australia

Documentary –  Tuesday, August 5, 7.30pm, NatGeo Wild, 6/10

These “wild” series are actually pretty tame but it’s a credit to everyone involved here that they’ve managed to make a nature documentary about the Australian desert and the creatures who exist there reasonably interesting. I learned something about the way kangaroos reproduce (which also explains why they so readily reach plague proportions), while the detail on some of our lesser-known marsupials is quite fascinating. Also, it looks glorious. 


Selling Houses with Amanda Lamb

Lifestyle –  Wednesday, 9.30pm, Lifestyle, 6/10

It ain’t a patch on Selling Houses Australia but there’s still fun to be had in this quirky format. There’s a buyer – tonight looking for a three-bedroom first home – and three potential sellers. First the sellers all check out each other’s properties and bag them. Then our host, Amanda Lamb, gives each advice on how to maximise their chances, along with (a pretty paltry) £1000 to do the work. There’s the usual satisfaction of seeing the ugly ducklings transformed, along with the genuine question of whether the buyer will actually like any of them enough to lay out the cash. 

Max Sessions: Coldplay

Music –  Saturday,  7.30pm, Max, 6/10

Coldplay are one of those bands people love to mock but they’re terrific performers and there’s something especially nice about Chris and the gang returning to help celebrate the 50th edition of Foxtel’s concert series, Max Sessions – especially as they launched the series 11 years ago. Over the ensuing decade there’s been an incredible roster of local and international talent, from Moby and Michael Buble to Paul Kelly and Darren Hayes. This hour includes all the Coldplay favourites along with material from the latest album, all ecstatically received by the (relatively) cosy audience of 700.