The Moodys: Darren Gilshenan.

The Moodys: Darren Gilshenan.

FREE TO AIR

The Moodys, ABC1, 9pm

Bridget (Rachel Gordon) arrives at her ''surprise'' birthday party. A banner reading ''Happy 40th'' is unfurled. The problem is she is only 38. ''I'm not 40,'' she says, dumbstruck. ''Don't shoot the sign-maker,'' says Sean. ''She looks 40 to me.'' Later, Terry Moody (Darren Gilshenan), complains about being trapped by man-eating Yvonne (Sacha Horler). ''I feel like a field mouse in a lubed-up bathtub,'' he whinges. It's writing like that, delivered by a brilliant ensemble cast, that makes The Moodys so hugely enjoyable, and not infrequently laugh-out-loud funny. There's a glorious silliness at the heart of the comedy, best typified by Sean Moody and his small business, Dying High, which promises to shoot the ashes of your departed nearest and dearest into the wide blue yonder by packing them into a firework. There's more than a hint of Whitehall farce about the set pieces, which betrays the theatrical background of many of the cast. And then, just as the silliness gets, well, really silly, the script flicks ever-so-briefly from comedy to pathos - and back again - leaving the viewer just ever-so-slightly wrong-footed. Brilliant.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Seven, 9.45pm

So shoot me: I've never really got on with comic books. Not since the age of about 11, anyway. Much less have I ever got my head around the idea of middle-aged men with scrappy facial hair going weak at the knees over rare copies of a super-hero magazine from the 1960s or flocking to conventions in tight Lycra Spiderman suits. So it was with little enthusiasm that I approached Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It's slick, sure, and being of the fantasy genre, demands more than the usual suspension of disbelief. However, even given all that, this really is tosh, with its cardboard characters, laughable dialogue and labyrinthine plot revolving around attempts to release Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) from the clutches of Project Centipede. Coulson has died and been brought back to life and then he has a robot thingy put in his brain and then he loses the will to live. This last bit I can sympathise with.

The Block, Nine, 7.30pm

Explain this: when I start banging on about my renovation dramas (don't get me started on council planners …) people glaze over and start to look at their watches. Yet vast numbers tune in to follow every hammer blow and brush stroke from Brad and Dale, Alisa and Lysandra, etc. Go figure.

NICK GALVIN 


PAY TV 

The Michael J. Fox Show, Universal, 8.30pm

You know how sometimes things that look like the blandest pabulum turn out to be deliciously biting, satirical and witty? The Michael J. Fox Show is the opposite of that. You'd think there would have to be something special about a show that could get Michael J. Fox, Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Treme) and Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad) to sign on the dotted line. And if that show appeared on the surface to be precisely the kind of hackneyed family sitcom that everyone is so sick of, surely it would merely be aping the tropes of the genre in order to subvert them. No such luck. Tonight it's Christmas Eve, and Parkinson's-afflicted newsreader Mike Henry (Fox) and his wife, Annie (Brandt), are in competition to get the best present for the other. But when a colleague gives Mike an expensive gift he is so embarrassed that he gives her Annie's present in return. Ho ho! And he can't go out and get Annie a new one because his boss (Pierce) makes him work late. Laugh? You probably won't, except maybe awkwardly at one decent visual Parkinson's gag. The guest appearance by Sting doesn't help.

BRAD NEWSOME


MOVIES

Gomorrah (2008) SBS One, 11pm

Italy doesn't have one mafia; it has many regional ones of varying criminal and political influence. Few, however, compare to the Camorra, which has held Naples in its sway for two centuries. The least dangerous of its activities is leaving garbage uncollected for weeks; the most is recruiting extremely young men to kill. Africa gets all the blame for child armies, but Naples has its own.

Few Italians dared mention the Camorra except in whispers until Roberto Saviano wrote Gomorra, which was published in 2006 by Domenico Procacci, an Italian film producer. Procacci then financed Matteo Garrone's fine screen adaptation (its title gaining a concluding ''h'' in Australia). Both book and film were huge successes in Italy, and led to all manner of reforms and investigations being announced, though many question what has been actually achieved.

What no one can question is the bravery of Saviano, who has been subjected to constant death threats. One was later discovered to involve blowing up a stretch of highway while Saviano would be in a car passing over it.

However, threats have not stopped Saviano writing other exposes, including a book on the 'Ndrangheta or Calabrian mafia. For so disturbing a subject as Gomorrah, this is a film of unusual artistry and visual panache. It is a thought-provoking look at individuals caught up in an all-encompassing web, though the youth of some of those involved is truly unsettling.

Hitchcock (2012) Premiere (pay TV), 6.50pm

This is a worthy attempt at exploring the making of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), the biggest commercial success of the maestro's career, but also the hardest to finance and get right. Sacha Gervasi's film is particularly interesting in its exploration of the collaboration between Hitchcock (played by Anthony Hopkins) and his wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). Despite Hopkins' brilliant mimicking skills, however, it is hard to ever believe he is the famous director (or that Scarlett Johansson is Janet Leigh). Some people are too iconic to impersonate convincingly.

SCOTT MURRAY