On the case: <i>Father Brown</i>.

On the case: Father Brown.

FREE TO AIR

Father Brown, ABC1, 7.30pm

Much of the acting is still execrable but at least the plotting in tonight's instalment is intriguing. At the heart of the action is a rather austere professor who works in atomic science. When his daughter falls ill, the ignorant locals are convinced (a) she has ''the atomic sickness'' and (b) it's catching. They're also rather paranoid about being nuked by the Ruskies, making the prof and his family thorough pariahs. Then the sick daughter disappears and things start to get interesting. I was way ahead of Father Brown in guessing one part of this mystery but he beat me to the final whodunit.

David Attenborough's the Life of Mammals, Ten, 6.30pm

Like a lot of people, I never tire of meerkats, so opening any episode with them is fine by me. What I didn't know was that the head scout meerkat actually climbs trees to better scope the terrain, thus introducing us to tonight's topic: life in trees. We continue as we began, with familiar creatures (sloths, fruit bats, sun bears, lemurs) the inimitable Attenborough shows to us in a new light. There are some fascinating creatures I'd never heard of (coatis, anyone?). We also learn something about the trees themselves and the habitat they provide. As is always the case with Attenborough's work, it's an absolute eyeful. And as for those gibbons … extraordinary.

A Year in the Wild, SBS One, 7.30pm

Snowdonia sounds like something you would find on a wannabe Dungeons and Dragons map but it is, in fact, a rather beautiful and rather rugged national park in the heart of Wales. And sure, ''wild'' in Britain is rather different from ''wild'' in other parts of the world (Africa, South America, even Australia) but, along with rolling pastures, cosy cottages and adorable rare-breed sheep, the area also holds corners of astonishing and sometimes brutal beauty. In this series Hermione Norris talks us through what makes this and other British wilderness areas special by covering 12 months in the district through the eyes of a variety of people. This first instalment includes one of the last-remaining farmers-shepherds; the local wildlife officer; and - this is Wales, after all - a poet. It's all simple enough but the cinematography is luscious and it really is a glimpse into another world.

MELINDA HOUSTON


PAY TV

The Chateau Meroux, Universal, 8.30pm

Christopher Lloyd is wasted as a pantomime villain but Marla Sokoloff and Amanda Righetti are appealing enough in this formulaic romance-drama. Sokoloff and Righetti play gal pals Wendy and Jennifer, whose love of Sex and the City lends a little spice to their dialogue at times.  Anyway, Wendy inherits a grand Californian winery from her estranged father, only to learn that the business is drowning in debt. While Jennifer occupies herself with the hunky Brazilian winemaker, Wendy has to figure out how to turn the place around before her dastardly neighbour,  Nathan (Lloyd), forces her to sell. She also finds herself falling for the handsome Chris (Barry Watson), not realising that he’s Nathan’s son. It’s all very much paint by numbers, but it’ll do if you’ve got a bottle of something that needs polishing off.

Live at the Apollo, UKTV, 9.25pm

An old episode of the British stand-up series, but a goodie. It’s 2009 and host Jason Manford goes down a treat with the enthusiastic audience at the Hammersmith Apollo, gently chiding them for their Londoners’ foibles while also taking the mickey out of his native Manchester. Headliner Michael  McIntyre is in fine, energetic form, talking about how men behave in gym changing rooms and doing an inspired bit on the secret life of the kitchen spice rack.

BRAD NEWSOME


MOVIES

Into the Wild (2007), SBS One, 9.30pm

Sean Penn’s early directorial works, notably 1991’s The Indian Runner and 1995’s The Crossing Guard, showed a taste for flawed, lived-in lives and bruised dialogue, but with Into the Wild – the true story of American student Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), who renounced materialism and eventually died in the Alaskan wilderness – too many important conversations are seen but not heard, as the camera pans away or music plays in place of dialogue. This is a failing not only of Penn’s efforts as a director, but of what he’s tried to do as a screen actor. Commitment to a character means little if it’s matched by a refusal to muddy the waters of his persona or realise the existence of flaws. McCandless, who died because he ate poisonous seeds that shut down his digestive system, is not fully captured by this movie, and that’s something that can’t be rectified by any number of painterly tableaus or loving montages. 

Cedar Rapids (2011) M Comedy (payTV), 10.20pm

American actor Ed Helms, who is best known for the US edition of The Office and The Hangover film trilogy, can summon a level of hysterical panic when being present at, or involved with, acts of wrongdoing that begins at guilty and swiftly expands to reach twisted comic proportions. In Miguel Arteta’s Cedar Rapids, a belated coming-of-age story set amid unlikely circumstances, Helms plays upright, innocent small-town insurance salesman Tim Lippe, who is dispatched to an industry conference in the big city where he falls in with a trio of happily compromised comrades, played with great skill by John C. Reilly, Anne Heche and Isiah Whitlock jnr (who references his work on The Wire). Tim discovers who he is, and what his beliefs really stand for, as he befriends the nice girl always standing outside the hotel (Alia Shawkat’s prostitute Bree) and, at the beginning of a particularly surly party, accidentally smokes methamphetamine. Helms’ reaction shot is priceless.

CRAIG MATHIESON