Jamie Oliver 'pimps up' festive fare in his <i>Christmas with Bells On</i>.

Jamie Oliver 'pimps up' festive fare in his Christmas with Bells On.

Jamie's Christmas with Bells On, Channel Ten, 7.30pm

HE'S been doing his housewife's-wet-dream act for so long now that Jamie Oliver is starting to parody himself. In the opening sequence of his festive offering for homemakers exhausted by the daily pressure of providing a square meal that meets the requirements of a MasterChef superchallenge, Oliver almost trips over his own seasonal cliches. ''I wanna take Christmas by the baubles!'' he exclaims while zipping about his neat island benchtop, and more than once uses the American gangster slang term ''pimp up'' to describe ways in which to enliven traditional English Christmas fare. But for all the saucy jokes and cheeky Mockney grinning, Oliver is still an inspiring cook.

Up All Night, Channel Seven, 11.30pm

SAVED from being little more than a mildly entertaining bit of fluff by the enduring charisma of veteran funny-girl Christina Applegate as working mother Reagan, this neurotic comedy will resonate with the aspirational demographic relentlessly courted by weekend newspaper supplements. This episode alone covers modern marriage, career versus parenting, gender role-swapping, the raising of super-children and adult sibling rivalry, with the guest appearance of 30 Rock's Dean Winters as the hot-shot brother of Reagan's house husband, Chris (Will Arnett). Despite the saccharine morality tale to which all funny one-liners and cracking parallel plots lead, this is a harmless look at the child-rearing industry, which has apparently spawned such terms as ''acclimated''.

The Almighty Johnsons: series return, Channel Ten, 10.30pm

IN THE way that Australian comedy probably seems quaintly innocent, mildly confusing and a little bit daggy to American and English audiences, so New Zealand's output in this genre can appear to us. There's the unmistakable accent, which to our ears can jumble the most benign of phrases into an off-colour innuendo. There are the colloquialisms that make no sense to us at all, the pace that's half a beat slower than what we're used to, and the visibility of the country's indigenous culture - something sadly still lacking in our own mainstream entertainment. The peculiar premise of this fantasy rom-com, set simultaneously in contemporary New Zealand and a Scandinavian netherworld, takes the disorientation to another level entirely. But if the current wave of fairytale television appeals, then it's worth allowing time for your cultural understandascope to adjust to what is, in essence, a good-natured Boy's Own adventure series for the sensitive New Age caveman. Indeed, it has proved so popular at home and abroad that an unforeseen third series is in development. In this first episode of the second season, Axl Johnson (Emmett Skilton), one of four brothers who are descended from Nordic gods and who retain only laughable fractions of their forebears' superpowers, continues his quest for his elusive goddess, Frigg. Forever by his side is his fawning bestie, Zeb (Hayden Frost), a skinny god-groupie apparently in it for what he hopes will be orgiastic Viking-style parties. Mirroring the sisterly friendship of teenage girls, theirs is a mateship that clearly spells trouble for any future lady friends, immortal or otherwise, and is in stark contrast with the four brothers' shaky bonds. A tendency towards overacting by most of the cast highlights the solid performances, namely from Skilton as the show's closest character to a straight man; Shane Cortese (Outrageous Fortune) as lawyer and part-time god Colin; and Alison Bruce as the brothers' estranged mother, Agnetha, who returns as a tycoon after spending 16 years as a tree (yes, really). The clever telling of interwoven stories gives this series the capacity to become addictive for the supernaturally inclined.