Weekend free-to-air TV: February 23

Weekend free-to-air TV: February 23

The Paradise, ABC1, 7.30pm

THE fashion for period drama (Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs) may have reached its nadir in The Paradise. While it is not supposed to be a genre to provoke deep thinking, The Paradise is so light it's a wonder it manages to hold itself down at all. The action revolves around a department store in an everyman's northern town in 1870s England. Genteel intrigues are played out among the staff and owners. The sub-Bronte-esque syntax of the dialogue borders on parody. The characters, too, are largely costume-drama-by-number creations. In this episode, Denise gets an unexpected promotion, which upsets her rival Clara; Clara flirts with Moray; Katherine flirts with Adler … blah, blah. If only John Inman were still with us.

A scene from The Paradise.

A scene from The Paradise.

David Attenborough's Africa, Channel Ten, 6.30pm

IN THIS dizzying tour around the wildlife of East Africa, Sir David demonstrates once again just why he is the best in the business - and will probably never be bettered. The material he has to work with is stunning, of course, but one of the great strengths of the veteran naturalist's programs is the faultless timing and pace of the narrative, effortlessly switching from the macro (breathtaking helicopter footage of a volcano erupting) to the micro (a lizard harvesting flies from the flanks of a sleeping lion). An hour in the company of Sir David is never wasted. NICK GALVIN

Bondi Vet, Channel Ten, 7.30pm


THE star of this week's show is Stanley, a two-year-old bulldog whose bulldog spirit seems to have evaporated. Surgeon Andrew Marchevsky reckons Stanley might not be long for this world unless he goes under the knife, which means we end up learning more about the innards of bulldogs than anyone needs to know. Meanwhile, Dr Chris struggles with a sickly black swan and Tim Faulkner demonstrates the best way to milk venom from a funnel-web spider (hint: carefully). What's not to like about Bondi Vet? The sun always shines, the surf's always up and the local vet is a super-nice dude.

Ice Pilots, 7Mate, 8.30pm

AS ANY pilot will tell you, the last thing they want in their job is drama and excitement. Boring and uneventful will do nicely, thank you. So, while flying World War II-vintage propeller aircraft around the snowbound airfields of northern Canada throws up some interesting moments, there's inevitably a whole lot of workaday stuff in between. However, in this episode, there is rather unusual happening in the lives of the good folk of Buffalo Airways (the episode title, The Crash, gives a pretty broad hint). Bad for them, but pretty compelling for the viewer.



Wonders of the Solar System, SBS One, 8.30pm

POP star-cum-particle physicist-cum-science TV presenter Brian Cox continues this excellent series looking at the amazing things that are part of our immediate neighbourhood in space. This week he's explaining, in simple but not dumbed-down terms, how atmosphere changes everything from the possibility of life on the various celestial bodies to our own ability to see them. As usual there are some great moments, such as when Cox decides to get close and personal with the edge of our atmosphere by jumping in a supersonic jet fighter to take a look at the region where the air runs out. The images shot by a space probe descending to the surface of the Saturn moon, Titan, are simply incredible.

Lyndey Milan's Taste of Ireland, 7Two, noon

SBS and the ABC have cornered the market in food porn - the glossy host, exotic locations - so when something as simple as Lyndey Milan's Taste of Ireland comes along it's, well, a little daggy. The genial Irish voice-over and bodhran drums thrumming in the background may have worked once upon a time, but Nigella Lawson has licked a lot of spoons since then, so filler shots of pubs and grazing cows just don't cut it any more. Tonight, Milan is in Waterford and it's pleasant enough. Local farmers, local food but nothing to really tickle the televisual taste buds.

Kevin McCloud's Man Made Home, ABC1, 7.30pm

IF YOU woke up this morning and thought to yourself: ''You know what? I wouldn't mind seeing Kevin McCloud taking a poo in the woods,'' you're in luck tonight (let's add that to the list of sentences I never thought I would write). Yep, he's using his own waste to create biogas to help his cabin in the woods exist off the power grid. Cue lots of chat about poo, close-up shots of dog poo (fun fact: dogs in Britain produce 1200 tonnes of poo a year) and much discussion about the power of methane-rich lion poo. If anything, parts of episode three of McCloud's cabin project - where he is busy kitting it out - could test even the most ardent fan. And it's not just the poo (really quite an ingenious little project), it's the killing of a deer so McCloud can use its hide for his reclining chair. I understand the point of the project is about ''reducing, reusing, recycling'', but it's a little jarring to see him with blood on his hands. Deer killing aside, the cabin is a beautiful creation and the craftsmanship behind something as simple as a bed is a sight to behold. As ever, McCloud is an affable host and his commitment to craftsmanship puts the other ''knock 'em down, buy more stuff'' shows to shame.

Elementary, Channel Ten, 8.30pm

FOUR episodes in and Elementary is ticking along nicely. Tonight, another layer of Holmes' tightly guarded persona unwraps a little when he investigates the death of a high-powered Wall Street boss found dead from a heroin overdose. Was it his taste for high-class hookers that brought him undone? Who knows, and who cares, when it's the relationship between Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Dr Watson (Lucy Liu) that is of most interest. Watson is starting to feel some of Holmes' influence on her life, while Holmes has upgraded her to ''bodyguard''. The writers have resisted the urge to insert any URST (unresolved sexual tension), aka the death of interesting male-female friendships on TV (hello, Castle!), or overt hamminess (Castle, can you hear me?).


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