SBS's TV series <i>Prisoners of War</i> is a gripping ten-part drama on which <i>Homeland</i> is based.

SBS's TV series Prisoners of War is a gripping ten-part drama on which Homeland is based.

Saturday

Prisoners of War, SBS One, 8.30pm

IF I were taken hostage and kept away from the world for 17 years, I expect I would come back with some questions, such as: ''What happened to grunge music? Who's that Obama guy running the US? What is an activated almond?'' Israeli soldiers Uri and Nimrod return home 17 years after being captured in Lebanon and struggle in different ways with the culture shock. Nimrod wakes up screaming. Uri won't get out of bed at all. Violent flashbacks offer a glimpse of the horrors they faced. This 10-part drama, on which the American series Homeland was based, is emotional and gripping. Writer-director Gideon Raff engages the viewer by not jumping about in typical, jarring crime-show style. Many of the scenes are tender and still, yet moving: Nimrod watching home movies of his children growing up; Uri reading letters his mother wrote to him while he was away. This is good television, worth watching all the way through.

The Paradise, ABC1, 7.30pm

''I DON'T think I can resist deer skin,'' a well-dressed woman swoons in this pompous period drama, which is like watching the shopping channel circa 1870. Meanwhile, dear dull Denise threatens to ''bring disrepute to the home of ladies' wear''. And poor Jocelin has a dropped stich in her bustle - oh, the shame! A flushed Jocelin simply must break free from her marital binds. I stripped off my corset in solidarity when she declaimed: ''I want to dance. I want to wear clothes that make me feel like a woman. I want to stay up half the night. I want to kiss and be kissed back. What is wrong with that?'' Hallelujah, sister! The Paradise is basically an upstairs-downstairs drama set in a department store. The series is billed as ''a heady world of desires'' but tonight's episode is about as scandalous as a laddered stocking. The lacy gloves and flowing dresses are lovely, but all the heaving bosoms in the world can't save this show from resembling a chintzy tea shop in a tourist town.

The True Story - Apollo 13, ABC2, 7.30pm

FILMMAKER Billy Wilder once praised Apollo 13 for being ''a movie about a guy who didn't get his dream''. Indeed, the story of the ill-fated space mission is refreshingly different from the wish-fulfilment fare served up by Hollywood. Even now, 43 years after the NASA mission went awry, you can see regret on the faces of the real-life astronauts who never quite made it to the moon. Interviews with the former US spacemen in this documentary are marvellous and painful to watch. They had hoped to land on an unexplored part of the moon but were lucky to come home alive after an explosion ripped a hole in their spaceship. As if they hadn't suffered enough, director Ron Howard, whose sins include The Da Vinci Code and Willow, then made a film about their plight. Howard features heavily in this documentary, which seems determined to strip any sensation from the film about the near-fatal space mission. I'm all for getting real, but at times this show feels like finding out the secrets to a magic trick. Space buffs will enjoy this but I'm with Howard when he says: ''I have to show anxiety, I have to show suspense.''

 

Sunday

Downton Abbey, Channel Seven, 8.30pm

IT'S 1920, and it's time for a wedding. Those who have been watching Downton Abbey since the beginning might argue that the nuptials of Matthew and Mary are long overdue, yet Julian Fellowes' highbrow soap opera is, somewhat ironically, rarely traditional in its approach. And tonight is no exception as the long-awaited ceremony is given short shrift compared with the surrounding dramas. Between industrial action in the kitchen, the upstairs-downstairs class confusion induced by the arrival of Irish rebel, former driver and now son-in-law Tom Branson, and the small matter of the Duke of Grantham misplacing the family's fortune, the third season gets off to a whirlwind start. Tonight also marks the time for Shirley MacLaine to join the cast of this award-winning period drama, as the Earl of Grantham's mother-in-law, to give Dame Maggie Smith a sparring partner worth her time.

SCOTT ELLIS

The Simpsons, Channel Ten, 6pm

IT'S guest stars galore tonight as The Simpsons turns to an old rom-com staple, with Bart revisiting the ghosts of girlfriends past. Well, actually, he just revisits the girlfriends as they're still alive, but none are too keen on him. Ken Burns, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anne Hathaway, Maurice LaMarche, Don Pardo, Natalie Portman, Kevin Michael Richardson, Al Roker and Sarah Silverman all make an appearance, with Zooey Deschanel a delight as Mary Spuckler.

Castle, Channel Seven, 10pm

NOW that's how you do a procedural! Castle has a blast tonight as a murder takes place at a sci-fi convention and the writers' room goes into overdrive - actually, make that hyperdrive - working in every sci-fi, comic-book and pop-culture reference that they can muster. From Nathan Fillion's none-too-subtle Firefly reference, through to the use of real-world blasters as weaponry, this is a glorious episode of a series that clearly still remembers not to take itself too seriously. Yes, there's fun with phasers, comedy about costumes, and plenty of tongue-in-cheek fan-bashing (and glorious defence) - they even solve a murder mystery in this best excuse for melodrama in a procedural ever created. It's also worth staying tuned through the credits to experience the lyrical stylings of one William Shatner. This episode is in essence a high-budget version of a How to Host a Murder Party, with a Star Trek: The Next Generation theme. Well, at least we now know what the scriptwriters do in their spare time.

GILES HARDIE