Weekend free-to-air TV
Joanna Vanderham stars in the ABC's new and strangely endearing The Paradise.
The Paradise, ABC1, 7.30pm
''QUICKLY girl, haberdashery, haberdashery!'' The preposterousness and pomposity of the protagonists in this production are what make this new BBC/Masterpiece drama strangely endearing. What is it that makes human beings so want to gather and own pretty, shiny things? Are we simply more-evolved bowerbirds or is there something greater going on, as Aldous Huxley postulated in Heaven and Hell, that our attraction to beautiful objects is nothing less than our yearning for a fleeting glimpse at Paradise? Aptly titled, then, is the ''glamorous'' department store the show is named after, owned by the commercial visionary Moray, played by Emun Elliott ofGame of Thrones fame, who looks like a British version of Robert Downey jnr, and who quickly gains an eye for the lovely Denise (Joanna Vanderham). There are all manner of other characters, from seedy and scary to rich and well-to-do, and this is a plush and opulent tale of power struggles and attractions to things and people. It also highlights how the department store of yesteryear may have been the beginning of the crass commercialisation that we know of today, where the worth of something is only as much as someone is willing to pay for it.
Prisoners of War, SBS One, 8.30pm
MODERN Israel looks like a lovely place to return to after 17 years of capture and torture, but that's cold comfort to the two men who, on return home, are quickly whisked away by Israeli security, only to find themselves in a different type of torture - this time under the guise of psychiatry. Simple but unsettling camerawork of their return, combined with disarming and harrowing footage of their time away, creates a dynamic tension. As everyone tries their best to make the two men feel welcome, what people know and don't know slowly becomes apparent. As the pair try to integrate themselves into their former lives, each with differing levels of success, the show highlights just what it means to be human - our strengths and weaknesses - and what people will do for love.
Real Humans, SBS One, 9.30pm
THIS is the last episode of the first series and, as expected, most things are sort of wrapped up, save for a couple of leads that allow for a second series. That's typical, but there's nothing wrong with that. Tonight's show opens with a nod to Vertigo and, much like a Hitchcock thriller, Real Humans relies on clever writing and classic suspense to heighten the disbelief. There are several other references to pop culture, which provide some much-needed humour to a crisp and sharp narrative. We've felt all along that the tension has been steadily rising and expanding, so it is fitting that it explodes in the last episode. Cyber-sinister and sexy Swedish robots using subterfuge and scientific progress have made for a cracking and wonderfully original program. And some fun alliteration. Here's hoping they go ahead and make a second series.
Rev., ABC1, 9.30pm
If SUNDAY-night church is not your thing, find salvation with the Reverend Adam Smallbone instead. With his mournful eyes, droopy cheeks and air of melancholy, the Reverend (Tom Hollander) could use a hug. Or a friend, which is what he is seeking tonight, in the form of Leon, a brash groom-to-be who is getting married in the Rev's dour inner-London church. Rev. is one of those small, bleak British comedies that is populated by a top-notch cast. Hollander is well known to In the Loop fans; Olivia Colman, who plays the Rev's wife, Alex, has popped up in everything from Peep Show to Beautiful People; and Simon McBurney, as the slimy Archdeacon Robert, is a terrific actor who was recently in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
History Cold Case, SBS One, 7.30pm
A COLD case, eh? Just have to wait for the glamorous, fortysomething blonde detective and her will-they-or-won't-they partner to turn up and prove it was the pool boy who did it, right? Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your taste for academics with stout German sidekicks), this is a real-life cold case being investigated by Professor Sue Black from the centre for human anatomy and identification at the University of Dundee in Scotland. Tonight they're looking into the scarred skeleton of a young woman that was found in London during an archaeological dig. The scarring is nothing Ripper-tastic: it's the marks left behind by advanced syphilis. So if the ins and, er, outs of venereal diseases in Victorian London (complete with wax figurines featuring necrotic noses and pus-filled facial sores) are your thing, it's probably worth a look.
Elementary, Channel Ten, 8.30pm
WHENEVER the Brits, or Australians, for that matter, have a hit on their hands, it is only a matter of time before the Yanks put their own spin on it. Mostly, their efforts are woeful (the Kath & Kim remake, anyone?) but occasionally they're brilliant, and so it is with Elementary. It's Sherlock Holmes in New York, but it's done with such sass that purists can watch with relative ease. Jonny Lee Miller is Holmes, fresh out of rehab and living in a brownstone with a commanding view of the Manhattan skyline. He's tattooed, manic and, thankfully, British. In walks Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) - a woman! She has been hired by Holmes' father to act as his sober companion - or ''glorified helper monkey'', as Holmes puts it - and the chemistry is immediate. Being a series opener, there's plenty of exposition and the case they solve is almost by the by - it's purely to show Holmes' tics and quirks and Watson's realisation that hanging out with this weirdo might not be such a bad way to pass the time. At its heart, Elementary is just another procedural, complete with an almost unrecognisable Aidan Quinn (where did those Legends of the Fall good looks go?) as a police captain, but it's smart, fast and doesn't take itself too seriously.
Downton Abbey, 7Two, 8.40pm
THE mess that is season two ends tonight (not counting the Christmas episode) with Julian Fellowes' attempts to wrap up World War I; Lord Grantham's not-quite-an-affair with Jane the hot housemaid; the Mary-Matthew-Lavinia love triangle (hello, Spanish flu!); Anna and Bates getting, oh god, conjugal; and Sir Richard getting his comeuppance. Urgh. If, like me, Downton Abbey is the chauffeur Branson to your Sybil - the secret shame your family would never approve of but you can't resist - never fear because season three is nearly here. And while I'm not promising it will be a whole lot better, there is a lot more Edith action, which can only be a good thing.