Free-to-air TV: Thursday, February 28
The cast of Survivor: Caramoan.
Highlight: Survivor: Caramoan, Thursday, GO!, 7.30pm
INEVITABLY, there's a sense of deja vu with Survivor (unavoidable after 25 seasons), but at least in the recent past they've made an effort to mix up the format and keep it interesting: ''Redemption Island'', the season where voted-out contestants got shipped to a purgatory where they fought for a slim chance to get back into the main game, was a compelling complication. This time, they've used another ''twist'' set-up, but it's one they've employed before, pitting a tribe of Survivor ''fans'' against a team of ''favourites'' from previous seasons, and there's already a feeling they've been to the well once too often - in last week's premiere, even the ''fans'' struggled to recognise all of the ''favourites'' when they clambered down from their helicopter: ''It's Dawn!!! It's Brandon Hantz!!! It's, it's … er … Whatsisname!!!'' (And it was particularly lame to bring back Francesca Hogi as a ''favourite'', when she survived for only one episode last time around.)
Still, for long-time watchers, there's a comforting familiarity in the routine and the best bit is seeing how they describe the contestants - in stirring voiceover from perma-host Jeff Probst - when we meet them for the first time. Of the returning favourites, there's Phillip, who claimed he was a former federal agent and was previously ''labelled crazy''. Great to see the return of super-geek John Cochran, himself once a fan brought into the show with some success and now described as ''the Survivor nerd''. There's Brenda, who ''used her looks to her advantage - but not everyone on her tribe was charmed''. And Andrea, ''the hard-working farm girl'' who ''flirted her way right out of the game''.
Among the newbies there's hipster Matt, with plaited beard, tatts and the job description ''BMX bike sales''; US Marine Shamar Thomas, who gained some fame during the Occupy Wall Street protests (Google him); and a quickly congealed group of four irritatingly pretty people who describe themselves as ''the cool kid lunch table at high school''. What's not to like?
All, unless they are idiotic, have had opportunity to verse themselves in Survivor (and survival) strategy, but there's revision and there's the real thing. ''I can't be the same freak I was last time,'' Cochran says early on, promising to have ''more swagger'' … then immediately gets his feet so sunburnt he can barely walk, much to the amusement of the sniggering jocks and jock-ettes. Phillip attempts to quote Machiavelli. Marine Shamar describes the other contestants as ''lunch meat'' and calls out, bizarrely, during a challenge, ''Break her wrist!'' Pretty Andrea tries to play everybody against the middle, managing only to alienate everybody. Only loveable Erik Reichenbach, an ''ice-cream scooper'' from Hell, Michigan with hair like Marc Bolan, seems to really get how to survive the early rounds - be unthreatening and pleasant to their faces (''Sometimes I get nervous,'' he mumbles charmingly to another player) and bitchy and calculating behind their backs.
Meantime, we've had a reward challenge that resembled a Bonds underwear ad (''This challenge takes place in the water,'' Probst tells them, ''figure out what you're going to wear,'') and a challenge that required the usual construction of absurdly elaborate infrastructure. Neither tribe has had trouble getting fire - after 25 seasons they've finally figured out it's something you can practise in advance - but they're still not wise to the infrared night-vision camera, which has already caught early ''hooking up''. (Tribemates forced to share the rhythmically creaking bamboo platform claimed they weren't getting any because it was ''poor strategy'' to hook up this early on.) A classic season in the making? Probably not. Better entertainment than on the other channel? Absolutely.
Please Like Me, ABC2, 9.30pm
AS SWEET and ridiculous as the $19 sundae served in the opening scene, Josh Thomas' sitcom uses the comedian's brand of low-key whimsy on heavy subjects. Most shows would not segue from gay-sex initiation to a painkiller overdose, but this one cruises through flashpoints of identity drama with zero histrionics. Like Girls, Lena Dunham's paean to the awkward age, this show isn't always likeable, despite the name. It has the deadpan stylings of a Sundance short film, and not just because Thomas' swallowed delivery is the epitome of ''mumblecore''. Thomas' real-life bestie, Thomas Ward, is terrific, like Napoleon Dynamite at 21. Wade Briggs, as Thomas' crazy-handsome love interest, has less chemistry, but the dating scenes are adorably bashful. Thomas' depressed mum, played by Home and Away's Debra Lawrance, adds raw emotion.
Making Couples Happy, ABC1, 8.30pm
UNHAPPY marriages often make for good television, but I'm far from convinced appearing on television is good for unhappy marriages. I watched this episode with my husband, high-fiving when we answered pop-quiz questions correctly (''Name your husband's boss'') and weighing in with our own couch-side analysis. There's a mummy's boy, a wife way smarter than her husband, and a woman just not that into her bloke - at all. Why these people discussed their physical needs on air is beyond me, but this is the ''too much information'' age. It's sensitively done. No Jerry Springer-style accusations so far, but the science used to fix these marriages in eight weeks is pretty thin. The best on-air chemistry is between clinical psychologist John Aiken and pregnant sex therapist Desiree Spierings, who interrogates couples about their sex lives with Dutch frankness.
Neighbours, Eleven, 6.30pm
LAST time I watched Neighbours regularly, Guy Pearce was playing nice guy Mike. It's pretty hard to catch up. Reading Dr Karl's backstory makes my head spin. Played with blokey directness by Alan Fletcher, the good doctor has a marital history to rival Dr Edelsten's. I lost count of his separations from the feisty Susan, and I'm pretty sure the latest flame, Sarah, won't last all that long, even though I gather she's really an old flame back from somewhere - probably Brisbane. She can let Ramsay Street know how Scott and Charlene are doing. Oh, those two - they never write, they never call. Anyway, Neighbours circa 2013 is still a hotbed of broken hearts, nosy residents and incredibly cheap-looking rooms. The actors come and go, but the suburban stylings stay the same.