Q+A (TV1, 9.00am). Paul Holmes’s special guest via satellite this morning is former US Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who will have the inside goss on Mitt Romney’s likely nomination, and the crazy, crazy campaign.
All New Simpsons (Four, 7.30pm). British actor Jeremy Irons received what might be the best script note ever for his guest-star role in tonight’s episode of The Simpsons: “I play a pompous bar rag,” he told the Telegraph. “I read the script when it was sent to me and it said, ‘The Bar Rag speaks in a very sonorous voice.’ And then it said in brackets, ‘Think Jeremy Irons.’” That’s not a typo, by the way – he is the voice of Moe’s bar rag, which tells the tale of going from being a medieval French tapestry to ending up at the bar. (That interview with Irons is here. Note the mistake – the Telegraph thought he meant “rat”.) In other British actors guest-starring in American animated series news, Ricky Gervais appears in All New Family Guy tonight (Four, 8.00pm). He’s a dolphin.
Man vs Wild (Prime, 7.30pm). Bear Grylls, the manliest of men, returns with new episodes in which he becomes a “castaway”, armed only with his wits, a knife and his trusty film crew. Tonight, he’s in the Sahara, using his own urine to keep cool.
Call the Midwife (TV1, 9.30pm). Nostalgia – it’s so hot right now. And while Julian Fellowes diddles around at the bottom of the 20th century with Downton Abbey and Titanic, Call the Midwife fast-forwards to the 1950s, when it was usual for women to have babies at home and swathes of midwives cycled across London tending to them. The series is based on a memoir by Jennifer Worth (who is given voice by narrator Vanessa Redgrave) and focuses on a young newly qualified midwife (Jessica Raine) as she arrives at a nursing convent in London’s Isle of Dogs. The nuns there are played by Pam Ferris (of course), Jenny Agutter and Judy Parfitt, and the lovely Miranda Hart turns up in episode two as the extraordinary Camilla Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne, or Chummy to her friends. This isn’t stunt casting – there was a real Chummy, and Worth herself asked Hart to play the role. We predict Midwife will rate its socks off, although it’s not for everyone (guys perhaps?): it’s all about “the beautiful period detail and the frocks and the good-doing and the bloody cycling,” said the Guardian’s (male) reviewer. Guardian female blogger thought it was http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2012/jan/26/call-the-midwife perfect Sunday night viewing, however. (That review is here, but contains spoilers about the new series of Sherlock, which is beginning on May 11 on TV1.)
Boardwalk Empire (Prime, 9.35pm). Sorry folks, little hiccup in our print listings, and Boardwalk was left out. Rest assured, the second episode, Ourselves Alone, is tonight, and focuses on Jimmy Darmody breaking free of his fathers, both real and assumed, and striking deals with mobsters. Meanwhile, Margaret is taking charge, too, as Nucky becomes more isolated after his release from jail.
Grey Gardens (SoHo, Sky 010, 7.30pm). This extraordinary TV movie is one of several taonga that make up a story we can’t really appreciate, not having lived through America’s “Camelot years”. It’s based around a documentary made by brothers David and Albert Maysles in the mid-1970s. They were diverted from filming Jackie Kennedy Onassis when they learnt of her ageing, eccentric aunt and cousin, both named Edith Bouvier Beale. Big Edie and Little Edie were whacky, delightful mysteries who, for some reason, slipped away from their privileged socialite world to a life of squalor in their 28-room mansion in East Hampton. An overpopulation of fleas and raccoons brought out the health authorities and Jackie had to intervene to stop them being evicted. The 1976 doco became a cult classic and the fascination continued: Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore got rave reviews and awards a-plenty as mother and daughter Edies. Drawls Barrymore, as Little Edie, “It’s an artistic smaaaash!” (2009) 8 – Diana Balham
Monster-in-Law (TV2, 8.30pm). Old dragon fights bad actress for mummy’s boy. Of all the films in which Jane Fonda could have made her comeback, she chose this lacklustre romcom also starring Jennifer Lopez and Michael Vartan. Give me those skincare-for-over-seventies ads any time. (2005) 5
Journey from the Fall (Maori, 8.30pm). So much has been documented about the Vietnam War – mostly from the American perspective. This drama looks at the aftermath of the conflict from the point of view of a Vietnamese family who are forced to emigrate to the US. Exquisitely shot and well-acted, with an affecting performance by veteran actress Kieu Chinh, this film will surely resonate longer than dramas in the “heroic soldier” mould. (2007) 7 – Diana Balham
Composer of the week (Radio New Zealand Concert, 9.00am today and weekdays and 7.00pm Monday). Russian composer, pianist and conductor Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was one of the most important composers of the 20th century. He was precociously talented, writing his first piano pieces at the age of five and a complete opera at eight. He entered the St Petersburg Conservatory at 13 and learnt composition from Liadov, Rimsky-Korsakov and Nicholas Tcherepnine. He soon made a name for himself in Russian music circles and left his native land in 1918. He travelled extensively and ended up in the US, where he wrote his most successful opera, The Love for Three Oranges, for the Chicago Opera Company, and his Third Piano Concerto. In 1923 he moved to Paris, where he cemented his reputation as one of the most powerful and original composers of the era. He finally returned to Russia in 1932, where he was fêted and admired for 16 years. Then, without warning, he fell out of favour with the authorities and was denounced, along with other leading composers, for promoting ™anti-democratic formalism∫. However, by 1953, his position in the musical firmament was re-established and a special concert to celebrate his 60th birthday was sanctioned by the Government. His Seventh Symphony premièred in October 1952, to great acclaim. Prokofiev died of a cerebral haemorrhage on March 5, 1953 – the same day as Stalin. – Diana Balham
Extended Play: the Classic Flying Nun EPs (95bFM, 11.00am). Episode two of this 22-part series, brought to you by 95bFM, NZ On Air and the Listener, looks at Three Songs by the Tall Dwarfs. Alec Bathgate, Doug Hood, Hamish Kilgour, Simon Grigg, and Paul Rose talk about the EP, which was recorded on Chris Knox’s Teac four-track system. – Diana Balham
Young New Zealand (Radio New Zealand Concert, 8.35pm). NZSO Todd Corporation Young Composers Awards 2011 is a two-part series that begins tonight. In September, 13 young New Zealand composers had their works performed by the NZSO and, in this programme, Janina Nicoll talks to each composer and we hear a recording of their piece. Acclaimed Kiwi composer Ross Harris worked closely with last year’s group, and NZSO players led lunchtime masterclasses. The best overall composition was by Alex Taylor, who was awarded the NZSO Todd Corporation Young Composer Award, plus $750 and a commission to compose a piece to be performed by a chamber group from the NZSO in schools throughout New Zealand. – Diana Balham