Free-to-air TV: Tuesday, February 19
At The Movies with Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton.
At the Movies, ABC1, 9.30pm
HOW many programs last almost three decades with barely a tweaking of the format? At the Movies with Margaret and David - they long ago evolved to the level of needing only one name each - returns for 2013, having moved to a new night and a new timeslot. But little else has changed, and why would it? The simple set-up - recorded live and reported to have just one rehearsal an hour or so before going to air - works superbly; the spontaneity of the pair's reactions to each other's opinions and the ad-libbed discussions and tangents are the show's real joy. And, like a good drama, At the Movies is often most entertaining when there's real conflict between our beloved urbane critics. Although David might disagree with me on that one.
MasterChef: The Professionals, Channel Ten, 7.30pm
HAS MasterChef run its course (no culinary pun intended)? This season, despite featuring celebrity British chef Marco Pierre White as co-host, the franchise has had trouble pulling in the viewers, hitting a new low when it was out-rated by the nightly news. The professional-level spinoff held promise, particularly with the notoriously grumpy White running proceedings, but it's just not as much fun watching food-industry professionals (accustomed to being shouted at by a gruff head chef) scramble to complete service challenges and compete against other chefs - their peers, in essence. And White is yet to demonstrate his legendary volcanic temper. Perhaps it's time to provoke him into some ratings-motivated controversy.
Packed to the Rafters, Channel Seven, 8.45pm
THE Rafters are limping along in this series; perhaps the prospect of producing series six, yet to be filmed, is a daunting one. It's feeling daunting as a viewer, to be honest. There's another departure from the Rafter household tonight, with Matt (Jacob Allan) moving out, which leaves just a few Rafters left in the house. At first, it looks as though there might be another empty room when Ted (Michael Caton) ends up in hospital. No spoilers here: the old fella is OK, at least physically, but not so the Rafters' garage after a mysterious fire. Outside the Rafter household, Jake (James Stewart) and Alex (anyone else still feel uneasy about able-bodied actor Kristian Schmid playing a character with cerebral palsy?) are at odds regarding the return of their father, Jim (Andy Anderson), and the former husband of Donna (Merridy Eastman), who has come to stay is, predictably, acting suspiciously.
NCIS, Channel Ten, 9.30pm
PERHAPS the wackiest episode of NCIS ever includes the return of Diane Sterling (Melinda McGraw) and Tobias Fornell (Joe Spano) in a storyline involving fraud, fish and an hour of ex-wife gags. Fornell is the target of what appears to be a random shooting by a discharged navy officer. Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and the NCIS team are brought in to investigate, and Gibbs and Fornell team up, tracking down the former seaman's employer in a bar. There, they run into their mutual ex-wife - don't you hate it when that happens? - who tells them it's a coincidence. Naturally, it's nothing of the sort. Diane, formerly an auditor at the IRS, has been promoted to investigator in its enforcement division - she's got a badge now and all. She's also investigating the shooter for his involvement in a fraud ring involving filing tax returns under fake identities, so Vance forces the three of them to work together on the case. Cue ex-wife gags. And ex-husband gags - Daine refers to Gibbs and Fornell as ''Frick and Frack''. When Sterling reveals she's having marital problems with her third husband, she ends up seeking comfort from Agent McGee (Sean Murray), the pair innocently falling asleep together on McGee's couch, only to be discovered that way by Fornell. Cue even more japery. In between the gags, there's an engaging-enough story around the fraud case, but the focus of tonight's episode is really the show's characters.