SATURDAY FEBRUARY 16
The Sopranos (SoHo, Sky 010, 11.30am). Season five all day today of the best TV show ever, the one that includes Long Term Parking, the episode considered to be one of the series’ best. Both Drea de Matteo (Adriana) and Michael Imperioli (Christopher) won Emmy Awards, as did writer Terence Winter. You know the one – after Adriana confesses to Christopher that she’s been talking to the FBI, Silvio (Steve Van Zandt) takes her for a car ride …
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 17
Cricket (Sky Sport 1, Sky 030, and Prime, 1.30pm). After the successful one-day series in South Africa, the Black Caps are fielding pretty much the same line-up against England for the one-day series here. The only changes are Ross Taylor, who is making a much-anticipated return after the captaincy debacle, and Hamish Ellis, who is back from injury. The series begins today at Seddon Park, Hamilton (second match on Wednesday). Meantime, the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup has been under way in India and the White Ferns, at time of writing, had been doing pretty well. The final is tonight at 9.45pm (Sky Sport 2, Sky 031).
Fool Britannia (TV2, 7.30pm). British comedian Dom Joly reprises his previous series, Trigger Happy TV, although Fool Britannia is a much tamer affair. It’s basically jolly hidden-camera japes in which Joly dresses up, causes a bit of mayhem and waits to see if the usually reserved British get involved. One prank involves Joly as a vicar spraying a cyclist with mace; in another, he plays a Spanish lothario eyeing up the “ladeez” in Benidorm. Season two of the Charlie Sheen comedy Anger Management follows Fool Britannia, although the less said about that the better.
Survivor: Caramoan (Four, 7.30pm). The trick to producing a long-running series is keeping it fresh, so Survivor is doing another “Fans vs Favorites” for its 26th season. That means 10 returning contestants from previous seasons versus 10 of the show’s biggest fans, including a Miss Missouri, a firefighter, a female racecar driver and a former marine who became famous on the internet for berating New York City cops for excessive force during an Occupy Wall St demonstration. The show, which is filmed in the Philippines, airs here within three days of its US broadcast.
All New Family Guy (TV3, 8.00pm). Tonight’s episode is possibly more notable for being pulled off air after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, than it is for its guest star, Ryan Reynolds. Fox cited “sensitive content” in Jesus, Mary and Joseph!, which is a typically Family Guy-style version of the nativity. Reynolds plays a character who is a “precursor to Jesus” – a first go by God at immaculate conception that didn’t quite work out.
Inspector George Gently (UKTV, Sky 006, 8.30pm). Writer Peter Flannery, whose work includes Our Friends in the North and The Devil’s Mistress, likes to examine the past as “another country, they do things differently there”, so tonight’s episode of Inspector George Gently has its roots in the shame of the single mother forced to give up her child. It is 1968, and when the adopted child of a middle-class couple is kidnapped, suspicion falls on the baby’s natural mother. It’s not all social issues with Flannery, however; next week’s season-five finale is a cliff-hanger, with Gently (Martin Shaw) framed by an old nemesis and on the run. “My attempt at a proper thriller,” Flannery says on the BBC website.
MONDAY FEBRUARY 18
My Kitchen Rules (TV2, 7.30pm). You win, food porn. We are officially crushed under the sheer weight of amateur cooks, professional cooks, cooks on bikes, cooks in trucks, cooks on boats, hang-gliders and penny-farthings. Best to just wave a white flag in the direction of My Kitchen Rules, which screens three nights a week until goodness knows when. This is the Aussie series that’s like State of Origin for cooking: state-against-state, plate-against-plate, mate. Tonight, in Victoria, Kerrie and Craig prepare a three-course menu.
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 19
Rookie Blue (TV2, 9.45pm). Ah yes, the Grey’s Anatomy of cop shows. Season three of the Canadian series about the loves and lives of a bunch of newbie plods, although they are now two years into the job (question: how long can the show legitimately be called Rookie Blue?). Captain Kirk himself guest-stars in the first episode, drunk behind the wheel of a spaceship, er, car.
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 20
If Durham County (SoHo, Sky 010, Wednesday, 8.30pm) is to be believed, Canada is the new Scandinavia when it comes to crime serials. Never mind Sarah Lund trolling the dank corners of Copenhagen in a Fair Isle jumper, the new wasteland of lost souls and evil deeds is an outlying suburb of Toronto.
In Durham County, identikit houses and remote abandoned farmhouses are overseen by a brooding, humming electricity pylon farm. A psycho killer lives just across the road. Unlike The Killing, however, Durham County is more of a “whydunit” than a whodunit.
In the first season, the killers were revealed early, but the nastiness of the violence, some of it off-camera, served only to make the everyday creepier. There is a David Lynchian feel to the series, an air of danger lurking behind the picket fences. It is largely filmed in blues and greys and the sun rarely shines. “There’s a strange malaise in the suburbs and people react against it,” co-producer Adrienne Mitchell told Canadian magazine Zoomer.
The first season involved a dreadful cat-and-mouse game between Hugh Dillon’s Detective Mike Sweeney and his neighbour Ray Prager (Justin Louis), an old school friend with whom he had history. The conclusion involved Mike’s daughter Sadie (Laurence Leboeuf), a chip off the old block who wants to be a detective like Dad and who creates doll-house crime scenes.
Here another theme emerges: the sins of the fathers. Sadie is prone to violence like her dad, but the behaviour of her schoolmates is, if anything, more vile. Her boyfriend proposed a gang rape last season; two murdered schoolgirls became iconic and pupils dressed up as them.
This week, as season two begins, the murderer Ray (now played by Romano Orzari) is still a thorn in Sweeney’s side, but another disturbed individual has entered the picture, forensic psychiatrist Pen Verrity, played by the wonderful Michelle Forbes. It seems the theme is not physical violence, but emotional. Mike and his wife’s relationship is breaking down; Mike and Sadie are both on the edge as Ray’s trial approaches; Pen may not be what she seems.
It’s a brilliant performance by Hugh Dillon, who was in another well-regarded Canadian series, Flashpoint. Sweeney is a flawed hero, but instead of the usual bottled-up guy (like, say, Wallander), his emotions get the better of him, making him both the emotional heart of the show and its most unpredictable factor.
The Walking Dead (TV2, 10.40pm). Three sci-fi and/or fantasy shows returned last week without fanfare; it’s tough being a nerd. After the mid-season break, season three of The Walking Dead restarted with our plucky band of survivors facing a war with David Morrissey’s psychotic Governor. Also fun for nerds: the final season of Fringe (TV2, Tuesday, 10.45pm), in which Walter, Olivia and Peter are in 2036 fighting future humans who have travelled back in time to take control of humanity. Finally, there’s teen bait The Vampire Diaries (TV2, Thursday, 10.30pm), which is primarily about cute boys, but also about Elena being a vampire now and everyone searching for a cure.
Media3 (TV3, 11.20pm). Those Media3 scallywags return at the new time of … late. But that’s okay, all the kids are staying up late these days. Plus, the media-scrutinising series repeats on Saturday mornings at 10.30am. Winning!
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 21
The Brit Awards 2012 (UKTV, Sky 006, 1.15pm). British awards ceremonies are always slightly less formal affairs than the American ones, which is odd when you think about it. The Brits – the British music awards – are notable for their fabulous staging; who can forget Dizzee Rascal and Florence Welch singing You Got the Love at the 2011 Brits accompanied by 10 harps? We know we can’t. James Corden, whose Tony Award seems to have trumped any and all public gaffes he has made, is the host and performers include Mumford and Sons, Robbie Williams, One Direction, Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé. Who will totally not be lip-syncing.
“What we seem to have succeeded in doing in Britain is make people excited about astronomy,” Professor Brian Cox told us in December. He was talking about Stargazing: The Event (BBC Knowledge, Sky 074, Sunday, 8.30pm), a series in which he and Dara Ó Briain explore life, the universe and everything. BBC Knowledge is screening the third of the three series the pair have done live in the UK, where they anchored the show at Jodrell Bank Observatory at the University of Manchester while astronomer Mark Thompson and science correspondent Liz Bonnin report from a bunch of locations. The three episodes cover Mars, deep space and meteors, asteroids and comets.
Another well-known British TV face is Jo Whiley, the BBC Radio 2 DJ who has crossed over into television with The Jo Whiley Music Show (Arts Channel, Sky 079, Sunday, 8.30pm). This week’s episode features Nicky Wire from the Manic Street Preachers, British rapper Professor Green and pop singer Will Young.
Still with music, Mighty Uke (Arts Channel, Sky 079, Thursday, 8.30pm) looks at the little guitar with the big popularity. Perhaps it’s the ukulele’s whimsical sound, or the apparent ease with which it can be played, that has seen ensembles and orchestras spring up everywhere. Canadian film-makers Tony Coleman and Margaret Meagher travelled the world seeking out clubs, orchestras and virtuosos such as James Hill, who is touring New Zealand with the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra. Coleman told NPR that the ukulele is inexpensive, fun to play with lots of people and easy, but says Hill: “The uke is easy to play, but not easy to play well.”
Coleman also believes the record player’s arrival at the start of last century stopped families and communities playing music together. “When we decided to make the documentary, the thing I was interested in was the musical surprise,” says Coleman. “But I was blown away by the little instrument’s power to bring people together.”