Bring Your Boots Oz (Maori, 6.30pm). Talk about grassroots – former All Black Glen Osborne tours rugby clubs in this series; tonight, he’s in Bluff. In other rugby news, in anticipation of the Rugby World Cup, Maori is screening some of the most thrilling matches of the competition since it began in 1987. RWC Classic Matches screens on Thursday at 8.00pm, with a repeat on Saturday. But will they play the All Blacks’ crushing defeat in France? Oh, the pain …
North (TV1, 7.00pm). Marcus Lush travels to the independent state of Hokianga, rides horses and does some astronomy, and tries not to be sentimental about Opo the friendly dolphin. (NB: TV1 schedules are subject to change due to earthquake coverage.)
Special Forces Heroes (Prime, 9.50pm). Something for the guys who wear army gear and like to play war games on their Xboxes. UK SAS operations are given the full-on reconstruction treatment – all explosions, gunfire and confusion – and then the situation is deconstructed using CGI, interviews and archive footage. The series begins with the Iranian Embassy siege in London in 1980.
Life (Prime, 8.45pm). The thing about being a giant corporation based on Reithian principles is that you can make a bunch of programmes about a certain topic and call it a “season”. Not long ago, the BBC had a “medieval season”, just last year it had a “school season”, and in 2009, to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, the Beeb had a “Darwin season”. Some of these programmes, such as Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life and Did Darwin Kill God?, have trickled down to us piecemeal-fashion; the new BBC Knowledge channel, which replaces the Documentary channel on March 1, may change this, but here’s one that was worth waiting for: a beautiful, high-definition Planet Earth-type series that celebrates the glory and wonder of evolution. The spectacular and ingenious ways that animals and plants have found to survive is the subject of the first episode: in Florida, bottlenose dolphins swim in a circle beating their tails on the sandy ocean floor. Dust trails encircle their prey, which, panicked, leap from the middle of the circle straight into the waiting dolphins’ mouths. In Kenya, cheetahs have learnt to work together to bring down large animals; in Madagascar, a camouflaged chameleon unfurls its “super weapon”, a tongue that moves at 15 metres per second and which has a grasping pouch on the end. The filming, four years’ worth, is gorgeous. Time is slowed down, every detail is captured, savoured, enjoyed. The footage of animals stalking prey plays out like a thriller – can the cheetahs bring down the ostrich? Will the seals get away from the killer whales? It’s a venus flytrap-eat-fly world out there. Life is narrated by David Attenborough, of course, and in subsequent episodes goes on to look at reptiles, mammals, fish, birds, insects, carnivores, plants and primates. What a wonderful world.
Reel Late with Kate Oscar Special (TV3, 10.00pm). The Oscars are tomorrow, although we’re not especially bovvered. These things pale into insignificance, as they say, in the light of recent events. However, Kate Rodger talks with Oscar winner Ngila Dickson tonight.
Mad Men (Prime, 10.45pm). “Who is Don Draper?” is the first line spoken in the new season of Mad Men, and it signals the theme of season four: Don’s (Jon Hamm) struggle with the persona he has invented and will continue to reinvent. He is now divorced and living alone in a dark city apartment; he’s drinking, whoring and unhappy and the new advertising agency founded at the end of season three is struggling. As always, Mad Men is fascinating, multilayered, pleased with itself. The characters are trapped in societal prisons – or ones of their own making. Betty (January Jones) is finding life with her new daddy figure isn’t any better than it was with Don; Joan’s (Christina Hendricks) married life is something of a charade; and even Peggy, who is the most independent, faces discrimination. Perhaps Mad Men does, as one critic suggested, serve largely as a way for us to “congratulate the present”, but isn’t it interesting finding out how we got here?
Click (TV2, 8.30pm). Kill us now. Adam Sandler mines the low humour barrel – again – and comes up with a bunch of pooh and fart jokes – again – that amount to nothing more than an empty exercise. Again. (2006) 1
My Tehran for Sale (Maori, 8.30pm). Another side of Iran is captured by writer and film-maker Granaz Moussavi, the one where young people strive to express themselves despite the threat of punishment by an oppressive government. In fact, to avoid that same situation, the film was made secretly in Tehran on digital cameras and hidden from the authorities until hard drives could be taken out of the country in backpacks worn by the producers. It features Marzieh Vafamehr as an actress and fashion designer struggling for personal and artistic freedom. She meets Iranian-born Australian citizen Amir Chegini at an underground rave and he offers to take her back to Australia. However, Australians and New Zealanders know very well the treatment meted out in the Lucky Country to illegal immigrants. (2009) 8
The Conversation (Rialto, Sky 025, 8.30pm). The usually outgoing Gene Hackman plays a tragic and solitary figure in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 classic. It’s an amazing character study by both actor and director – Coppola was in-between Godfathers at the time – and in the Watergate era, the movie raised questions about the ethics of surveillance and the effects on those who do it. And 37 years later, these are issues with which we are still grappling. (1974) 9
Hostel (TV2, 10.40pm). Ugh. Torture porn (or possibly “gorno”) that has no redeeming qualities. Should this even be on free-to-air TV? (2005) <1
The Radio New Zealand schedule has changed, as coverage of the Christchurch earthquake continues. Details here.
Opera on Sunday (Radio New Zealand Concert, 3.00pm). The 1972 visit to China of US President Richard Nixon might, on the surface, seem like a strange subject for an opera, but in fact, as New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini points out, “in the larger scheme the trip was momentous”. In this production of John Adams’s Nixon in China, James Maddalena is Nixon, Janis Kelly is Pat Nixon, Robert Brubaker is Mao Tse-tung, and Richard Paul Fink is Henry Kissinger.
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