FREE TO AIR
7.30, ABC1, 7.30pm
NOW here's a shocking confession: I actually prefer 7.30 summer to 7.30 regular, for one big reason. No politicians. I know, for some, Leigh Sales' interviews that fixed hapless pollies like rabbits in the proverbial were one of the highlights of the television year, but for me they were either circular or just humiliating. (That's not Sales' fault. That's just political interviews these days.) Over summer, all that tends to fall away and the considerable skills of the 7.30 team are put into the service of niceness, not evil. The show actually often moves into A Current Affair territory but with a satisfyingly highbrow bent. It's a great mix and it's also comforting to know that if something large should happen while the world's on holiday, we can turn here for sensible analysis.
Alone in the Wild, ABC2, 8.40pm
THIS series opened last week with former English cricketer Freddie Flintoff alone in the wild, and it was a fascinating character study. Stranded in South Africa, he demonstrated an intriguing combination of thrill-seeking and absolute sloth, a consummate giver-upper. When fishing proved too effortful, he chose to subsist on his emergency rations and devote what was left of his energy to what he enjoyed: getting up close to wild animals. Jason Gardiner, featured in tonight's episode, is a different creature altogether, both more energetic and more fragile. The shtick here is that ''celebrities'' are given a couple of days' training in basic survival skills, then left alone in some remote location. For Gardiner - Aussie-born and raised but now the ''mean judge'' on Britain's Dancing on Ice - that location is a deliriously picturesque island off the coast of Belize. His ramshackle hut looks like heaven to me but, as he reveals, he suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and he's so consumed by sweeping the floor and organising his few possessions that things such as organising food and potable water rather fall by the wayside. There is something compelling about his comprehensive incompetence. Once again, we emerge with a fascinating portrait of the man.
I Just Want My Pants Back, Channel Seven, 11.50pm
THERE are a few shows doing the rounds at the moment about a generation's struggle to commit (to anything), from Californication to Girls and this surprisingly charming effort based on the book by David J. Rosen. Tonight's ep is an especially nice one, too. Jay doesn't get his pants back but he does re-meet the girl of his dreams; Eric and Stacey find themselves at a crossroads; and Tina decides that maybe a good guy isn't a bad thing after all.
Misfits, ABC2, 9.30pm
MOST series pale as time passes, especially those that depend on quirk for their mojo. The first season of Misfits blew my mind. The whole concept was so outrageous, the characterisation so deft, it so cleverly hopped back and forth across the comedy-drama line. As we enter season four, though, the magic has dimmed somewhat, not least because core cast members have departed, and been rather lazily replaced by a collection of same-but-slightly-different characters.
Highlight: Burning Love , Tuesday, E!, 10pm
MAKING a parody of The Bachelor is no easy thing. As regular viewers of The Soup well know, The Bachelor is very much a parody of itself, with some of the dumbest, most narcissistic and least self-aware people ever to answer a reality TV casting call making oblivious fools of themselves week after week. But this clever new comedy - which stars Twilight's Kristen Bell and tonight features appearances by Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston - succeeds handsomely in bringing the laughs and skewering the idiocy of the format and the people who take part in it.
Ken Marino (Party Down) heads an impressive cast as bachelor Mario, a hunky himbo fireman. ''I've had girlfriends before,'' he explains, ''but now I'm ready to settle down with a complete stranger.'' Mario is particularly keen on settling down with a ''coloured'' stranger, and is resistant to the insistence of the show's host (Michael Ian Black) that the correct term for such a person is ''African American''. Unluckily for Mario, there are no African Americans among the contestants vying for his hand in marriage, but there are still 20 women for him to choose from. As well as Bell's veterinary assistant, who boasts of already being in ''a committed relationship with God'', these include the homeless Willow (Malin Akerman), the ''exotic'' Ballerina (Community's Ken Jeong), ''damaged goods'' Julie (June Diane Raphael) and the sex-mad Haley (Natasha Leggero).
Such a potentially unwieldy set-up could easily devolve into chaos and tiresome silliness, but the script by Erica Oyama is well judged and Marino (who directs as well as turning in a fine performance) keeps the action focused.
Dance Moms, LifeStyle You, 9.30pm
Pennsylvania dance instructor and all-round ogre Abby Lee Miller berates her tiny charges and their mothers.
Spy, Comedy, 9pm
Darren Boyd (Holy Flying Circus) stars as a man accidentally recruited as a trainee spy for MI5.
HouseSitter (1992), Channel Seven, noon
FRANK Oz's romantic comedy has a typically screwball plot, whereby a character pretends to be someone else, with all the inevitable complications.
Architect Newton Davis (Steve Martin) is angry his girlfriend won't marry him, so he abandons the house he has just built and heads to the city, where he beds a congenital liar, Gwen Phillips (Goldie Hawn). When he leaves without saying goodbye, she goes to his house, pretends to be his new wife and charges everything to him - as you would.
Oz, the former Jim Henson puppeteer and the voice of Yoda in Star Wars, has had a varied career as director, from The Muppets Take Manhattan to the recent Death at a Funeral. Sadly, HouseSitter is often more infuriating than rib-tickling.
For a Few Dollars More (1965), ABC1, 11.40pm
AFTER the sword-and-sandal frivolities of The Colossus of Rhodes, director Sergio Leone got serious with A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. The exciting, revisionist westerns pioneered a bold visual style and cynical narrative tone that would become a genre norm.
In Fistful, Clint Eastwood plays what American and Australian distributors whimsically called ''The Man with No Name'', despite the fact he is called Joe. In For a Few Dollars More, Eastwood's character is now Manco (or Monco, if you're watching the Italian original), a bounty hunter who is inexorably drawn into a life-or-death duel with Colonel Douglas Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef) while they track an outlaw, El Indio (Gian Maria Volonte).
Academics have become professors writing about Leone and how he changed the genre. Most notably, he darkened the western from men of honour bravely confronting bad guys to bad guys fighting among themselves. God's grace is nowhere to be seen. The pointless killing of an 18-month-old boy is a sickening moment in which Leone challenged what constituted acceptable taste at the time. It is also prophetic, foreshadowing the rise of the morally bereft during the glorious and hedonistic 1960s. A psychotic leader of soulless, cowardly men, El Indio could well be the head of the Red Brigade or Baader-Meinhof group, both of which emerged soon after the film was released in the West. Leone knew the world was changing, and with it the western.