Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sunday, July 28

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Ripper Street reviewed

A 19th century CSI drama set in London six months after the last Ripper killings...Is Jack the Ripper really dead?


Compass: Whatever Happened to the Kibbutzim?, ABC1, 6.30pm

It's the kind of thing that could only have happened in the 1970s. A confluence of affluence, mobility, political ardour and a kind of innocence within both the new Jewish state and the young people of the world made the kibbutz a destination for travellers and idealists from throughout the world, including Australia. Here one group of friends reconvene to reminisce about their experiences while another handful of former kibbutzniks find themselves neighbours on the south coast of NSW. They came from all sorts of backgrounds but they all shared the unique communal utopian life and all, to a greater or lesser extent, concomitant disillusionment. I would have liked to hear more about how modern kibbutzim operate but this is still a fascinating insight into a once-in-a-lifetime social experiment.

Old case: <i>Ripper Street</i>.

Old case: Ripper Street.

Ripper Street, Ten, 8.30pm


Despite opening with lots of shouting and blood, this new period crime drama from the BBC takes a while to warm up. But when it does, it's a cracker. For a start, don't be fooled by the ''period'' bit. This is certainly set in the 1880s, but it's far from genteel. Nor, despite the title, is it yet another rehash of the Ripper legend. Instead, that legend is simply used as a launching pad for a cop show with a thoroughly modern sensibility that has a great deal of fun telescoping back to an imagined past when everything we take for granted in both crime and crime solving was still in its infancy. Our hero is Whitechapel detective Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen), who, with the help of a couple of colourful offsiders, is determined to keep the mean streets of his neighbourhood clean.

Underbelly: Squizzy, Nine, 8.30pm

This is such an odd franchise. Last year's instalment - the unfortunately named Badness - was terrific: taut, gritty and involving. This historical piece, on the other hand, is pretty much the opposite. Maybe it was felt you couldn't produce something taut and gritty when everyone's in period costume but I'm not sure that's the case. Boardwalk Empire managed it (and Ripper Street does, too). Unfortunately, here, once the flapper dresses and the pork pie hats go on, the cheesy gags and slapstick set pieces start flying.



River Cottage Australia, LifeStyle, 8.30pm

Tasmanian chef Paul West has settled in well at the old dairy farm in Central Tilba, on the NSW south coast. Tonight, for the first time, he is able to make a dish entirely with ingredients from the farm. It's a modest affair - baked eggs made with spinach and cream from the cow - but a milestone nonetheless. In any case, the surrounding farms continue to supply West with an abundance of choice ingredients with which to make scrummy-looking dishes. An oyster farmer takes him out on the river to check on baskets full of Sydney rock oysters and to compare the very different flavour of a native flat oyster. A bag of bivalves procured, West heads home to whip up a mouth-watering oyster pie. There's a whole lot more going on, too - the local oyster festival, a visit to a farm that specialises in bush foods, and the sowing of birdseed for chicken fodder. The segment about the wonders of dung beetles, however, could have done with some background on their introduction and whether they have had any unintended effects on the environment.

The Wild West, Nat Geo Wild, 7.30pm

The script drips with Wild West cliches, but this nature-doco series is packed with good stuff. Tonight we see adorable wolf cubs, a bear gnawing on a bison carcass and a Native American man catching an eagle the traditional way – by hand.



Biutiful (2010), World Movies (pay TV), 2.45pm

Biutiful is the fourth feature of Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perres, Babel, 21 Grams). As usual, one sits spellbound at the images and flights of imagination, but also teetering on the edge of nausea as Inarritu unblinkingly portrays the lowest ebbs of the human condition. It doesn't take long for death to appear - the corpse of an owl at the edge of an exquisite, snow-covered forest - and the inevitable descent into hell begins. Inarritu is, above all, the poet and bell ringer for the insulted and injured. And he has a remarkable gift for unsettling the viewer: the forest scene is near unwatchable with its choking sense of dread. Back in a teeming and poverty-stricken Barcelona, Uxbal (Javier Bardem) struggles to support himself and his two children by arranging work for illegal African immigrants, joining with Chinese slave labourers to market ripoffs of designer goods, and bribing the police in the hope of keeping everyone out of jail. There is a magic naturalism in Inarritu's work that some find indulgent, but there is no doubt he masterfully conjures worlds most wish to ignore and gets from actors heart-renderingly great performances. Bardem was nominated for an Oscar and none would question it. What they might question is whether this unremitting story of despair really adds up to quite enough.


The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Gem, 11.30am

Possibly not the original but, to many, the best version of Robin Hood's adventures (no offence Russell), starring Errol Flynn, who dons tights and slings arrows at the outrageous authorities. This is Flynn at his swashbuckling finest, fencing Basil Rathbone's Sir Guy of Gisbourne with a smile, swinging from the trees and wooing the fair Maid Marian, played by Olivia de Havilland. Still fun after all this time.

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