Craig Reucassel attempts to interview Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for <i>Hamster Wheel</i>.

Craig Reucassel attempts to interview Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for Hamster Wheel. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

FREE TO AIR

The Chaser: Hamster Wheel: season finale, ABC1, 9pm

We're sad to report that tonight's instalment of Hamster is the final edition for 2012. Its ratings have dropped slightly since losing its Gruen lead-in but it has been an excellent season. An example: the brutally funny, unflinchingly pointed ''eulogies'' in which the impact and achievements of the life of a public personality such as Rupert Murdoch is examined. Indeed, the segment on Mark Scott rigorously scrutinised the career of the ABC boss. It was both unflattering and hilarious. Props also to the series' amusing dissertations on Paul Henry. There are so few others doing what Hamster does: smartly and humorously dissecting the week in politics and media. The style may be irreverent and nonchalant but this is brave, intelligent television. Hamster will be missed.

Kitchen Cabinet, ABC2, 9.30pm

AT THE beginning of the final episode of the second season of this entertaining little show, Annabel Crabb proffers a tiny confession. It's one that much of the Australian voting public can probably relate to. ''I don't know very much about Christine Milne,'' she admits. A heavily pregnant Crabb then heads to Tasmania to meet the reclusive senator, who instead of meeting at home, as is customary in Kitchen Cabinet, has requested a rendezvous at the local organic grocer store. The two repair to the senator's home (Milne's car: a Prius) and Crabb begins probing on her childhood spent on a Tassie farm. An interesting discussion point coalesces around her obsession with gun control and her father's love of shooting. Did he approve of her anti-guns stand? Not so much. She reveals that dad had it written into his will that when he passed away, his gun was not, under any circumstances, to come into his daughter's possession! It's the sort of fascinating information that's frequently disclosed in this series. More next year, please.

A Moody Christmas, ABC1, 8.30pm

THE third episode of this razor-sharp Australian comedy once again dispenses plenty of laughs and pathos. A six-part series, A Moody Christmas checks in with the Sydney-based Moody family each Christmas over six years. We're now three years in, so to speak, and it's settling into a nice rhythm. We know now, for instance, that the pool so proudly announced by dad in the first episode is unlikely to move beyond a ditch; a straightforward ride home from the airport from this family is highly improbable; and the now-tattered ''Welcome Home'' sign may never be removed. While there are plenty of subtle (and blatant) visual gags, what's so good about this series is its ability to capture the uniqueness of an Australian family Christmas. Even if your family's big day is not as tumultuous as the Moodys', any number of the broad sweep of characters - and their eccentricities - will resonate. Great stuff.

Dynamo: Magician Impossible, Channel Seven, 8.30pm

IF YOU'RE of adult age and you're contemplating watching this cheesy, late-in-the-ratings-year schedule filler, perhaps you need to get out a little more.

ANDREW MURFETT

The Bridge, SBS Two, 8.30pm

IF YOU were worried this terrific Scandinavian crime series would wind up like season one of The Killing, don't be. The bonkers killer is accurately identified, and justice sort of done - as much as it can be in the morally ambiguous world this show has so successfully created. Its most likeable character, Martin, is also its most flawed, while the most morally upright - Saga - is compellingly strange. And while the perp is apprehended, this delivers an ending that's far from happy. But that's what makes The Bridge so satisfying. The practical attitude that seems to define Scandinavians, from their furniture to their prison system, imbues their drama, too, and while the writers of this certainly give us grace notes, they also give us a good slap of reality. Which is, of course, why we love them so.

MELINDA HOUSTON


PAY TV

Show of the week
Magic City ,Wednesday, Soho, 9.30pm

IT'S an altogether different Jessica Marais we see in this new American drama series; in fact, it's Jessica Marais in the altogether. But more of that later.

Magic City seeks to combine the period aesthetics of Mad Men with the brass-knuckled gangsterism of The Sopranos. It aims to do this in the setting of a swanky hotel on the Miami beachfront in 1959, and with gangsters who are Jewish, rather than Italian. It works on the style front: the fictional Miramar Playa Hotel and its habitues look a treat. Unfortunately, the script for this first episode, written by series creator Mitch Glazer, is a shocker, full of holes and groan-inducingly cliched lines.

Our antihero is dapper hotelier Isaac ''Ike'' Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a man of some mystery who has nightmares about a veritable kelp forest of people who have been sent to sleep with the fishes (whether by him or his mobster associates is not clear). Ike is married to a young and glamorous second wife (Olga Kurylenko), about whom we also get few clues.

The other main players are hurriedly painted in crude strokes. Ike has two sons, Stevie (Steven Strait), an arrogant lothario; and Danny (Christian Cooke), a sweet boy in love with a doe-eyed maid. Gangster Ben ''The Butcher'' Diamond (Danny Huston) is an explosively violent type who takes sadistic pleasure in making the viewer sit through the fable of the frog and the scorpion yet again. His wife, Lily (Marais), is a femme fatale with va-va-voom and a thing for dangerous liaisons.

It's New Year's Eve and Ike has a problem. Frank Sinatra will be playing to a packed house, but the union picket out front will prevent a vital booze delivery from getting through. Cursing himself, no doubt, for being so inexplicably incompetent in keeping the bar stocked, Ike seeks help from The Butcher.

Poolside at The Butcher's mansion, Ike gets quite an eyeful of the naked Lily, who is up for a bit of a full-frontal chat, and we get an inkling that she might enjoy turning men into putty. The Butcher quickly establishes his psycho credentials, and it's clear that Ike will pay dearly for assistance he wouldn't have needed had he been smart enough to make a quick trip to the cash-and-carry in the first place.

Marais is game in a so-far-thankless role, and neither she nor anyone else gets any help from the woeful script.

BRAD NEWSOME

Orca: Killing School, Nat Geo Wild, 8.30pm

Amazing documentary showing how adult orcas patiently teach their young how to almost beach themselves so they can snatch sea lion cubs from an Argentinian beach.

Wallander, UKTV, 9.20pm

Kenneth Branagh plays the Swedish police inspector.

Australian GT Championship 2012, Speed, 9.30pm

Ferraris, Porsches, Aston Martins and other marques fang it around Surfers Paradise.


MOVIES

Mackenna's Gold (1969), 7Two, 2pm

IN THE history of westerns, one aspect of outback life has rarely been dealt with: sexuality. There has always been a lot of platonic yearning, and sometimes the local prostitute tosses off some cheeky repartee, but mattresses are rarely tested and clothes stay firmly buttoned. In 1969, director J. Lee Thompson tried to push the boundaries with Mackenna's Gold, a western for people not really interested in westerns. Thompson and producer Carl Foreman had a huge hit with The Guns of Navarone, and Mackenna's Gold is an action adventure about hidden gold transposed to Monument Valley, Arizona. Today it is mostly notable for the scene in which an Indian girl (Julie Newmar) swims naked in a waterhole. However, the sexual revolution in cinema still had a long way to go, with Marshall Mackenna (Gregory Peck) diving in fully clothed and a naked bandit (Omar Sharif) sitting on the water's edge with legs coyly crossed. Double standards still ruled.

When in Rome (2010), 7Two, 8.30pm

AN AMERICAN girl (Kristen Bell) gets drunk and obnoxious in Rome, stealing coins tossed by lovers into the (re-imagined) Trevi Fountain. This is not the best chick flick ever made.

SCOTT MURRAY