What’s on TV: Friday, September 11 to Thursday, September 17 – Brisbane Times

Posted: September 9, 2020 at 10:57 am


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Friday, September 11

George W Bush SBS, 7.30pm

With almost 20 years' hindsight and with the world much changed it's fascinating to look back on the presidency of George W. Bush, the events that defined it, and the history that shaped it. This meticulous PBS documentary is long two 120-minute episodes but it's the detail that makes it worth watching.

The Split: Rose (Fiona Button), Hannah (nicola Walker), Nina (Annabel Scholey).

Opening with a blow-by-blow of September 11 (something that still produces chills) we proceed to a primer on the life and career of Bush senior, how that shaped the life, values and decisions of Bush junior, how W came to enter politics and of course how and why he responded the way he did to the al-Qaeda attack.

Without being revisionist it certainly shows us the human being behind the relentless headlines and generates considerable compassion for what was, after all, just a man doing his best in extraordinary circumstances.

24 9Now

The clock is always ticking for Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland). The audacious real-time conceit of this addictive espionage thriller requires that someone important is always under threat and that the fate of the United States, if not the whole "free world", is under attack from shadowy malevolent forces. Bauer, stony-faced, fearless and resilient, is an agent for the Counter Terrorist Unit, a maverick who'll break the rules to achieve the desired outcome.

Each episode spans an hour in real time and the suspense, especially in the ripper first season, is perpetually high, even when the plots can take some wild turns to keep the momentum pumping. Sutherland wears a pained expression and a furrowed brow through the eight seasons even though he's the designated survivor. Four seasons are now available, with a new batch dropping every Friday.

The Big Family Cooking Showdown SBS Food, 6.30pm

Terrific casting makes this lightweight but enjoyable cooking comp a winner. The format will be familiar: three members of a family, regular home cooks, compete against a similar team in unsophisticated culinary challenges. Co-host Nadiya Hussain is always delightful; the judges Rosemary Shrager (Ladette to Lady) and Georgio Locatelli (Italy Unpacked) are fun, and in this first ep the granny from one team not only is the spitting image of Anne Reid, she's like every slightly dotty granny you ever knew.

The Split ABC, 8.20pm

This first-rate British drama returns for a second season tonight, still worrying at the conundrums it set up last season. It's fertile ground: a family drama peopled by flawed, empathetic characters who are then layered into a legal drama - both the machinations within the firm and a case of the week. Showrunner Abi Morgan continues to find ways to use those cases (the work of a family law firm thats also a family business) to motivate, illuminate or reflect on the family issues. She also knows perfectly how to modulate light and shade, and make sure everyone in the big ensemble has something to do.

Freeman ABC, 7.40pm

Twenty years ago, on September 25, Cathy Freeman won gold in the 400-metre footrace at the Sydney Olympics. It's a moment so etched in the cultural memory it seems like theres not much else to say about it.

But this elegant, intelligent documentary manages to introduce new material, remind us of all the things we've forgotten, and put the event in a contemporary context that makes us feel the weight of the moment in fresh ways. As moving as it is exhilarating.

Todd Sampson accumulates more frequent dying points in a new season of Body Hack, hitting a demolition derby in Utah in the opening episode.

Peppa Pig ABC Kids, 7.55pm

Before home-grown hit Bluey set the benchmark for animated children's discovery, the porcine power of Peppa Pig was top of the pile of toddlers. The seventh season of the now lucrative British franchise debuted earlier this year, but frankly repeating it in the early evening feels like a positive gambit during a pandemic (especially if you're in lockdown); it's quite the palate cleanser for when you've had enough reality TV.

A family visit to a local castle provides the everyday excursion for the first episode, which allows Peppa to ask questions and make observations with Mummy and Daddy Pig while little brother George continues to stick to chortles and animal noises. The show hits the sweet spot of silly and sensible for the target audience, and it remains impervious to those trying to ideologically critique it. That said, Daddy Pig's disappointment at the medieval banquet being plastic did hit a little close to home.

Drunk History Ten, 9.40pm

It's taken a good part of two years for Ten's local take on the American comedy hit, which was initially commissioned for their pilot week sweepstakes, to be broadcast. That should set off alarm bells, but the Drunk History concept where the past is illuminated by a comedian recently acquainted with alcohol as actors provide the visuals is so pliable that with the right talent talking it's harder to get this irreverent education wrong than right.

Free of her terrifying Helen Bidou character, comic Anne Edmonds provides the lowdown on Dame Nellie Melba's ascent to opera glory, despite having a "head like a busted arse", while Harley Breen provides a mocking, mirthful retelling of the many failings that got Burke and Wills killed. The explorers are played by James Mathison and Osher Gunsberg respectively, which is an unlikely Australian Idol reunion, but nonetheless a daftly enjoyable one. Cheers!

The Trip to Greece (premiere) ABC Comedy, 9.20pm

While cinemas in Australia get first dibs at an edited version of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's improvised fine dining comedy, the complete fourth season of director Michael Winterbottom's European vacation comedy has finally arrived for those who prefer their plating to be like their mockery: intricate and well-seasoned.

As (hopefully) exaggerated versions of themselves, the two actors and pals start their odyssey at the ruins of Troy, although they're soon at the lunch table where Brydon, forever grasping for equality with Coogan, is quoting Aristotle to garnish the worth of his impressions. There's a sombre streak to this edition, which concludes the show, but nonetheless this remains a masterful upending of the culinary travelogue.

Todd Sampson's Body Hack Ten, 7.30pm

How much hacking can Todd Sampson's body take? This is the fourth season of the advertising creative-turned-television presenter's international endurance test and he's previously been caught up in demonstrations in the Gaza Strip, trekked through Siberia, visited the French Foreign legion, and trained with various competitive fighters. By rights he should have accumulated plenty of frequent dying points.

While Sampson's appetite for risk can sometimes suggest a self-improvement streak that's verging on self-obsession, he remains a good observer of others, a trait well deployed in the season's opening episode. Travelling to the American state of Utah to take part in a demolition derby contest, Sampson draws some dismissive glances from the white, working-class devotees of extreme driving when he's introduced. Kudos to him for noting their suspicion.

Bluff City Law Nine, 9.40pm

Jimmy Smits has enjoyed an estimable television career, spanning roles in L.A Law and NYPD Blue to Dexter and Sons of Anarchy, but this pious legal drama where he plays a famous litigator whose personal flaws can't compare to his courtroom oratory is not going to dominate his highlight reel. Cancelled after a sole season, Bluff City Law is set in Memphis, where the firm run by Smits' Elijah Strait focuses on civil rights cases. His newest lawyer is formerly estranged daughter Sydney (Caitlin McGee), who is leaving behind her corporate clients to be closer to her father after a shared family tragedy. What unites the father and daughter? Some lofty legal ideals and grand speeches that in 2020 feel more like a sleek fantasy than the fabric of American life.

Friday Night Dinner ABC Comedy, 8.30pm

Once more it's Friday night in North London and adult sons Adam (Simon Bird, The Inbetweeners) and Jonny (Simon Rosenthal) are attending Shabbat dinner with their parents, Jackie and Martin Goodman (Tamsin Greig and Paul Ritter). The Jewish tradition is the foundation stone for sibling pranks, parents embarrassing their children, oddball diversions, and eccentric guests.

This is the first episode of the show's fifth season and, while there's a daft strain of slapstick still peeking through the plot, the defining element is the familial familiarity that defines these weekly gatherings. While it's far from acerbic, the writing and lead performances truly do capture the matter-of-fact oddness in getting together with people you've spent much of your life with but still don't fully comprehend. It's a mix of blood and bafflement that tie the clan together.

Just Jen SBS Food, 7.30pm

If you've seen American food blogger and kitchen creative Jen Phanomrat on YouTube you'll be well aware of her vibrant personality, feel for accessible dishes, and engaging food culture knowledge. Just Jen adds a broadcast sheen to her studio kitchen appearances, but it wisely keeps her style undiluted some of the puns aren't good, but the pleasure she takes in cooking is infectious. This episode is dedicated to fare that will help you relax, which includes her own take on the lollipop.

Secrets of the Museum ABC, 9.30pm

The items on display at London's Victoria and Albert Museum might number somewhere in the thousands, but the institution has approximately 2million pieces in its collection. This British documentary series captures the conversation with history both practical and philosophical that's involved in keeping those items viable. "Trying to keep the past alive," is how one conservator puts it, and it's a fascinating process even as it starts with a home-made Edwardian stuffed elephant named Pumpy, who is the worse for wear after a century of hands-on play and insect attack.

The staff show deep connections to the pieces they're studying, revealing illuminating details about the works that connect them to today, so that an 18th century portrait miniature is analogous to Instagram. An exhibition of Christian Dior gowns is the glamorous headliner, but it's the niche items that reveal the best techniques and tales. And there's a matching level of care in the direction of Jack Warrender, who visually captures not just the intricacies of individual pieces but the museum itself as a space where wonder is fostered.

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What's on TV: Friday, September 11 to Thursday, September 17 - Brisbane Times

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September 9th, 2020 at 10:57 am

Posted in Self-Improvement