Free-to-air TV: Monday, December 10
The cast of The New Normal take a heavy-handed approach to melodrama.
The New Normal, Channel Ten, 9pm
I APPRECIATE the impulse here: to celebrate gay couples and gay parenthood. It's just a shame Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler have made such a balls-up of it. Murphy has always had a tendency to panto and melodrama and that's the case here, with all the characters tending woodenly to two dimensions, an overdose of sentimentality and too much speechifying. On the upside, Murphy's also capable of magnificent speechifying, and tonight's ep (in which Goldie's mother has her first orgasm and David's mother comes to visit) delivers some beauties.
Ben and Kate, Channel Ten, 8pm
BEN and Kate wasn't exactly a hit when it made its premiere on Channel Ten (hence the summer timeslot) and it's not exactly breaking new comedy territory, but there's an awful lot to like about it; mainly, every member of the cast. In an ensemble where some care has been taken with the secondary characters, everyone's exhibiting the delivery and timing necessary to lift an ordinary sort of script to the next level. Dakota Johnson is suitably sweet as Kate and it's her job simply to be a foil for those that surround her: wastrel brother Ben (Nat Faxon), slutty bestie BJ (Lucy Punch) and Ben's long-time wing man, Tommy (Echo Kellum). These guys do a lot with a little in terms of material, making this not exactly laugh a minute but always bright, breezy and charming.
The Amazing Race, Channel Seven, 9.30pm
WHAT an interesting race it's been so far, and now, with only five teams remaining, the collegiate vibe of this season demonstrates its downside. It's the nature of the competition that friendships extend only as far as second-last place. Then it's every man for himself. Not only does one crew suffer disastrously bad luck tonight, but there's also a diabolical double U-turn, which not only shakes up the action in unexpected ways, but also delivers some surprisingly moving moments.
Louis Theroux: Return to the Most Hated Family, ABC2, 8.30pm
IT'S hard to imagine anyone but Louis Theroux so successfully broaching a subject like this, calmly but persistently confronting the most virulently bonkers religious sect in America. As we rejoin America's Most Hated Family - aka the Westboro Baptist Church - anyone with a shred of humanity or even sanity has quit the clan, leaving only the most deranged to carry on. We knew they thought soldiers deserved to die because the armed forces accepted gays. They've since expanded their brief to include the following: Jews deserved the Holocaust; women with breast cancer deserve to die; Obama is the Antichrist; and Armageddon is around the corner. As always, Theroux is measured in his conduct and conclusions, but this is an hour that leaves you wanting to take a long, hot shower.
SCU: Serious Crash Unit, Channel Seven, 8pm
AT LEAST one episode of this simple New Zealand series should be required viewing for anyone getting behind the wheel this summer. Tonight's ep focuses on a horrendous collision involving multiple vehicles, injuries and fatalities, and watching the team painstakingly figure out what happened is compelling. This is reasonably graphic but it's not sensational. The grief of the victims is touched on but not exploited.