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Monday, February 17


Four Corners: North Korea: Life Inside the Secret State, ABC1, 8.30pm

Fascinating insight keeps dribbling out of the world's last totalitarian dictatorship, the latest being the extraordinarily casual, condoned use of crystal meth. The premise of this documentary produced by PBS program Frontline is that information will just keep on coming as the regime of Kim Jong-un becomes more permeable, thanks to technology. Secret cameras capture North Korea's deprivations, from street children begging for food to the propaganda of well-stocked department stores where nothing is actually for sale. Political intrigue is escaping via high-profile defectors and information is breaching the tightly controlled border, allowing North Koreans a taste of Western culture and encouraging thoughts of a life beyond their state-sanctioned ''paradise''. It's a depressing snapshot of present-day North Korea served with a glimmer of hope.

Revenge, Seven, 8.45pm

Television's recent rise in social standing has been driven by a number of intelligent, well-written, thought-provoking drama series entwined with female-friendly roles giving actresses over the age of 40 the chance to escape the Hollywood scrapheap. Revenge, sadly, is not one of them. A soap fantasy involving the intricately plotted revenge of a young woman against the burghers of New York society who framed and murdered her father, it stars one-time Hollywood A-lister Madeleine Stowe as Victoria Grayson, cunning matriarch/chief vixen/intended victim. Stowe turned in a spirited performance in The Last of the Mohicans; her Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a TV drama must, however, have been driven by sympathy for the difficulty of keeping a straight face when uttering lines such as: ''He's going to do something to destroy me and this entire family.''

Raising Hope, Eleven, 8pm

Barry Jones' infamous meatball diagram has nothing on the bartering system established by Burt (Garret Dillahunt) and Virginia (Martha Plimpton), which inevitably descends into corruption worthy of a banana republic. As usual, the best lines belong to the inimitable Plimpton, who makes being white trash look kinda fun.




The Walking Dead, FX, 1.30pm, 8.30pm

Whatever happened to baby Judith? Did the empty, blood-soaked baby capsule we saw at the end of the mid-season finale mean she became a zombie hors d'oeuvre when the walkers overran the prison? At last we find out. We also learn what happened to some of the others. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is alive and frantic to find out what happened to Glenn (Steven Yeun). Elsewhere, Tyreese (Chad Coleman) finds himself leading little orphans Lizzie and Mika (Brighton Sharbino and Kyla Kennedy) through the walker-infested woods. This hammer-swinging mountain of a man has always looked as if he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, and this new gig looks likely to end up with him imploding into one giant, furrowed brow. There are plenty of other developments too, including the possibility that a nascent psycho is beginning to bud (hint: it's not Carl). Suffice to say it's another fine episode full of surprises and walker-splattering action.

Monsters vs Aliens, Nickelodeon, 8am

A clever, kinetic and thoroughly enjoyable CGI spin-off of the 2009 movie. Tonight the devious alien Coverton arrives on Earth, claiming to come in peace. The monsters have their suspicions but they find themselves on the outer as President Hathaway falls for his charm.



Winchester '73 (1950) Fox Classics (pay TV), 8.35pm

Arguably the three greatest directors of American Westerns are John Ford, Anthony Mann and Howard Hawks. Tonight, Fox Classics is showing a Ford and a Mann. In Mann's Winchester '73, Lin McAdam (James Stewart) rides into Dodge City, where he out-shoots the sinister Dutch Henry Brown (Stephen McNally) at a Fourth of July celebration. The prize is a rare Winchester rifle, which all manner of men, good and bad, subsequently try to get their hands on. This is America, after all. The first 15 minutes is as good as it gets, the dialogue incisive and witty. However, the film momentarily loses momentum when the narrative follows the rifle as it is passed from bad guy to gunrunner to Indian chief (a young Rock Hudson!). The picaresque storytelling is crucial to the film's telling analysis of how some men create identities for themselves, but Stewart is such a commanding presence that one resents those moments when he is not on screen. Overall, though, this is a magnificent film, full of intriguing sexual and social politics, vibrant period atmosphere, and exciting chases and bank robberies. It was co-written by Borden Chase, the genius writer of many a Mann Western and Hawks' Red River. Mann is not as universally known as Ford or Hawks, but he stands mighty tall alongside them.

Two Rode Together (1961) Fox Classics (pay TV), 10.10pm

John Ford's Two Rode Together is an underrated but enjoyable late work, with James Stewart superb as a morally compromised marshal in a small Texan town. Co-starring Richard Widmark, it has beautifully subtle detailing of male friendship and a last line worthy of Billy Wilder at his best. Ford's acknowledged masterpieces demand one's true attention and respect. In comparison, Two Rode Together appears lackadaisical and a bit of a guilty pleasure - that is, until you finally realise how great it actually is.