Weekend free-to-air TV

Weekend free-to-air TV

Saturday, November 10

Scumbus, Channel Ten, 9.30pm

HERE'S another reminder to watch this enjoyable, locally made film. Meet Thomas Murphy (Ed Kavalee). He's a cop, it's his birthday and he's the hero of this film, which means he's the straight guy in the centre of a cop comedy farce. Because this is a television comedy made in 2012, the always amusing Toby Truslove is in it, cast as Tommy's best mate, surprisingly successful playboy and all-round loveable goof Jessie. These last-chance police partners are assigned to staff the ''scumbus'', a mobile police station where the officers deal in illegal drugs and general zaniness, much to Tom's displeasure. This is a comedy telemovie, which is a rare thing for a film industry that once produced great comedies.

Toby Truslove and Ed Kavalee star in <i>Scumbus</i>.

Toby Truslove and Ed Kavalee star in Scumbus.

Gardening Australia, ABC1, 6.30pm


TONIGHT'S program showcases the five finalists for the Gardener of the Year award. One rural Victorian garden has adopted a Mediterranean landscape that has become a haven for birds and disability groups. Going a step further, a nurse has developed a horticulture therapy program in a rehabilitation centre, providing a sensory garden for all patients. Another garden near Adelaide is dedicated to plants from arid regions, while Costa visits the home of a Jervis Bay gardener who is helping to re-vegetate local dunes in the face of wind, salt and sand.

Blackout, SBS One, 8.30pm

THE second instalment of any trilogy is always tough - it's not setting up and it's not cleaning up. The worst-case scenario is a bridging chapter, dragging things out for no good reason. Blackout's second episode is the other end of the scale, ratcheting up the tension and solving obvious problems early, only to reveal far more complex threats and delicious drama. We open with Daniel (Christopher Eccleston) elected to mayor. The alcoholic, philandering, corrupt council official who last week beat a man to death in a drug-fuelled blackout before taking a bullet to save a stranger, is on top of the world, seemingly over his addictions, happy with his family and getting away with murder, all for the greater good. Then, as his blackout clears, the hurdles start coming thick and fast. This is an engaging hour watching an anti-hero discover the fragility of his reformation.

Sinbad, ABC1, 9.05pm

ISN'T it always the way? You're all set for a simple ocean cruise, then the captain's new love interest - who claims to have been raised by tigers, no less - arranges for a professor to use the boat to ship her giant egg to a deserted island for part of an experiment. And wouldn't you know it, the professor is a mad scientist and the egg's hatching midtrip? Tonight, the crew never even makes landfall, as it's all about a monstrous cargo let loose in the hold. It's a decent episode and a good variation on the one-night-on-an-island formula.

Sunday, November 11

Highlight: Devil's Dust, ABC1, 8.30pm

IT'S impossible not to wince while watching the workers on the shop floor at James Hardie paddling around in great drifts of asbestos dust at the beginning of this dramatisation of the Bernie Banton-James Hardie story. The fluffy white stuff appears so benign, yet with the benefit of our historical perspective it's impossible to ignore the dust's malign presence. ''Get out! Run away,'' we want to tell the blokes, but of course they don't, because they were unaware that hiding in asbestos dust are the seeds of a horrible, lingering death.

There is always a challenge in telling a story whose ultimate outcome is well known to anyone who has read a newspaper or watched a news program in the past 20 years. That challenge is to maintain dramatic tension while remaining reasonably faithful to the narrative. The key players in the story are Banton himself (played by Anthony Hayes) and ABC journo Matt Peacock (Ewen Leslie), who got hold of the story early in the piece and clung to it with an admirable, old-school tenacity, eventually writing the book on which much of Devil's Dust is based.

At the outset we are told the story is real but has been ''changed for dramatic effect''. Perhaps the biggest liberty is the introduction of the fictitious figure of Adam Bourke (Don Hany) as the James Hardie spin doctor. Bourke's role, as he gets deeper into defending the indefensible, is to embody the tortured conscience of the company, and it says something about the level of Hardie's corporate bastardry that the writers found it necessary to invent the character.

Devil's Dust is the latest in a series of dramas mining recent history (Howzat! Kerry Packer's War, the Underbelly franchise, Paper Giants, Beaconsfield) and does a great job evoking the atmospherics of an era where everything seemed to come only in one of two colours - beige or brown. It's interesting to speculate what historical drama documentaries will be made about the corporate scandals of the early part of the 21st century. The great climate-change cover-up, anyone?

Meatwork, ABC2, 9.30pm

IN THIS remarkable and brave film, young documentary maker and committed carnivore Madeleine Parry explores how cows, pigs and sheep are turned into the food on her plate. She spends four weeks at a small abattoir, gradually working up to slaughtering the animals herself. Throughout, she is painfully honest and, ultimately, struggles with her lack of emotion when it comes to killing. ''So … am I still a caring person,'' she asks plaintively. Essential viewing for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.

Michael Palin's Brazi, ABC1, 7.30pm

HERE is Palin doing what he does best - playing the avuncular, slightly quizzical Englishman abroad as he explores the extraordinary colour and variety of the world's fifth-largest country. It's a simple, almost old-fashioned concept: a travel-doco series based purely on a presenter visiting one country and interviewing the people there. However, Palin does it so well and the material is so rich that it makes for fascinating viewing. The quality of the background research is also second to none. In this, the first of four episodes, he hooks up with the Yanomami people near the border with Venezuela. Once famed as hunters and warriors, they now do battle with loggers and miners. He also visits Fordlandia, which is all that remains from the curious attempt by industrialist Henry Ford to establish a model community in the jungle.

Finding Life Beyond Earth: Moon, SBS One, 8.30pm

THIS is a whistle-stop tour through the latest research and theories around the creation of the universe and what conditions are necessary for life to form on other planets. The themes are big - in fact, they don't get any bigger - but with the aid of some cracking CGI animation, even the most complex ideas are communicated clearly. ''A lovely exercise for everyone to do is to look up into the night sky, look at the twinkling lights and realise that those stars, by and large, all have planets,'' researcher Geoff Marcy says. ''And that's just our galaxy. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies out there like our Milky Way, and so the number of planets in our universe is a truly uncountable number.'' Feeling small yet?


Killing Time: season final, Channel Seven, 9.40pm

NOW that convicted serial killer Peter Dupas has failed in his attempt to stop Channel Seven screening the final instalments of Killing Time - on the basis the program would interfere with his right to a fair trial, should his conviction for the murder of Mersina Halvagis be quashed in the Court of Appeals - fans of the slickly directed series who didn't catch it on pay TV can have some closure. Tonight we get some fine acting from David Wenham as Fraser in decline - professionally, as he sets up his own unsuccessful firm; and personally, as his marriage breaks down, and as his raging cocaine addiction begins to rule his every decision. Like importing cocaine from Africa. Suddenly Fraser is facing a seven-year stretch in maximum security. Even if you know the story of how he turned prison grass in order to escape, it's still a compelling tale, and one in which the ending - will Fraser be awarded the $1 million reward? - is yet to play out.


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