SATURDAY November 20
Degrassi: The Next Genera-tion (TV3, 9.00am). This small Canadian series set in a high school is well under the radar, screening as it does right after the kids’ cartoons on a Saturday morning. It is, however, a genuine cult hit in the US and even has a fan in Clerks director Kevin Smith, who says, “When I heard some of the storylines they’re doing, my head exploded.” That’s because Degrassi doesn’t shy away from the tough stories, including the A-word – abortion – that saw headlines in the US when the N network refused to air the episode. The current incarnation of Degrassi is the latest in a 25-year run of spin-offs from the original The Kids of Degrassi, which had the revolutionary idea of telling stories from the kids’ point of view.
He Whare Korero (TV1, 10.25pm). Hmm, is Saturday night really the night for watching a series about the history of Maori language? Suggestion: buy a new tape and programme the video recorder for Prof Timoti Karetu’s three-parter about the place of Maori language in the genealogy of the Pacific languages. Also covered is how te reo suffered under colonialism and its subsequent renaissance, which has seen growing numbers of Maori and Pakeha learning it.
SUNDAY November 21
Australian Idol Final (TV2, 9.30pm). Thank (insert chosen deity here). It’s ending.
Augustus (Prime, 8.30pm). Peter O’Toole is whiling away his twilight years playing historical and biblical figures (he was recently in Troy, although he called the film “a disaster”), and in this mini-series he and Charlotte Ramp-ling lend their star power to an otherwise unknown cast. It’s the life and times of Emperor Augustus: O’Toole plays old Augustus. Concludes Monday.
MONDAY November 22
Intrepid Journeys (TV1, 7.30pm). Here at TV Week, we think Hugh Sundae should be Holmes’s replacement. After all, if he can milk a goat in Mongolia, he can do anything.
TUESDAY November 23
Joan of Arcadia (TV3, 7.30pm). The US likes a bit of a chinwag about God and in Joan, there’s a smart, cleverly written, well-acted (it received three Emmy noms for its first season), extended teen discussion going on. It’s not a bad thing unless, like Nick Cave, you don’t believe in an interventionist God, and then it might grate a little. To get you up to speed: God appears to Joan in various guises – cute guy, old lady – and tells her to do something like play chess or build a boat. Joan’s dad (Joe Mantegna) wrestles with issues of life, death and corruption as the town’s new police chief, while her brother (John Ritter’s son, Jason) is struggling with his new life in a wheelchair after a car accident (God can’t, like, just fix him, you know). TV3 abruptly pulled the series halfway through this year, so we pick up season one at episode 10, in which God is – they got this right – a plumber.
Trust (TV1, 8.30pm). Housewife’s choice Robson Green has played a lawyer before – in 2000’s Close and True – but in Trust, he’s an altogether more high-flying corporate type who spends too much time at work (in the first episode, he wakes up at the office, but instead of going home, gets someone in to change, wash and shave him). TV1 is rolling out the British series tonight – Serious and Organised, which follows Trust, is a cop series starring EastEnders’ Martin Kemp.
WEDNESDAY November 24
Two and a Half Men (TV2, 7.30pm). First Chris O’Donnell (remember him?) sighting of the week; he plays Charlie’s ex-girlfriend who is now a boy.
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (TV2, 8.30pm). One of New York’s finest is the Fab Five’s victim for the season finale. So how many jokes about a man in uniform do you think Carson can make? Let’s find out, shall we?
Hyundai Sports Cafe (TV2, 9.30pm). Last chance to see Eva and Lana in flash frocks as all the stops – approximately two – are pulled out for Sports Cafe’s annual Rocky Awards, live from the Civic Theatre in Auckland.
THURSDAY November 25
Next Action Star (TV2, 7.30pm). Welcome to summer programming. And because we follow US trends, it’s likely to be reality-heavy – or more reality-heavy than we are already. Matrix producer Joel Silver teamed up with NBC to produce this series, which follows producers as they train potential stars in the ways of the stuntperson. A male and female winner will then star in a Silver-produced TV movie. Unfortunately, it was a ratings bomb in the US, and NBC even skipped an episode to wrap it up early. Those two Matrix sequels should have been a warning to them, really.
The Practice (TV3, 9.30pm). That David E Kelley, he doesn’t muck around. When ratings for The Practice fell in its seventh season, he fired his leads (Lara Flynn Boyle simply disappears, possibly into thin air), hired James Spader, and elicited a couple of great turns during the season from guests Sharon Stone and William Shatner. Then – this almost beggars belief – Shatner, Stone and Spader win Emmys for their roles on the show. Shatner doesn’t turn up until towards the end of season eight, which starts this week, but Stone appears in episode two, and Chris O’Donnell (second sighting of the week – that is just freaky) is in the first four episodes. Spader and Shatner are now appearing in Kelley’s spin-off Boston Legal.
Where … the laughs are
PRIME, TUESDAY, 9.45PM
Quote of the week
“I’ve joked with my colleagues for years that I’m like Rudolf Hess in Spandau.”
PAUL HOLMES BREAKS FREE FROM TVNZ
Cartoon we love
Sheep in the Big City,
Cartoon Network, weekdays, noon.
Mo Willems’s cartoon deals with urban discomfort as his sheep, called Sheep, is pursued in the city by a secret military organisation that wants to use him for a sheep-powered raygun. Willems is creator, writer, director and voice actor on the series and is a noted children’s cartoonist and writer: he currently has two books on the New York Times’ bestseller list.
Henri Cartier-Bresson – The Impassioned Eye (Arts Channel, Sunday, 8.30pm). A documentary about one of the most important photographers of the 20th century, who died this year. This was the first time that Cartier-Bresson had become involved in a production, in connection with a retrospective at the French National Library. A painter eight years before he took up the camera, Cartier-Bresson gave the world the concept of the “decisive moment”.
South Park (Sky 1, Sunday, 10.35pm). Always worth a look, and maybe we should have been looking harder. A while ago,
right-wing blogger Andrew Sullivan coined the term “South Park Republican” to describe drinking, bonking, dope-smoking young party-animal conservatives who might dislike the Bush moral certainties but absolutely and thoroughly hated the hand-wringing moral vacuum of the Democrat camp. The South Park 10-year-olds are foul-mouthed children who usually start an episode acting from immature, crypto-Democrat motives and graduate by the end of the show to a Republican or Libertarian position. They hate most things, but especially condescending media personalities. How’s this for the voice of the heartland?: “People like you preach tolerance and open-mindedness all the time, but when it comes to middle America, you think we’re all evil and stupid country yokels who need your political enlightenment.” And they’re also funny. Tonight’s episode contains one of the show’s best moments as the fascist Cartman tries to convince the US Congress to legalise stem cell research for profit.
Extreme Engineering 2 (Discovery, Thursday, 8.30pm). The glory of humankind’s endeavour. This celebrates our attempts to define, shape and tame our hostile environs using the fullest reach of our creativity and genius. The series includes the turning back of the tide to prevent Venice drowning, building a radical skyscraper in Sweden’s freezing winter darkness, tracking 50 kilometres of tunnel through solid rock and the highest bridge in the world. Look upon these works and aspire.