Sunday, December 28

Gore galore: World Without End. Photo: SuppliedFREE TO AIR
Shanghai night field

Save Your Life Tonight, ABC, 6.30pm

While ’80s heart-throb Cameron Daddo is soothing listeners of Melbourne nostalgia radio station, Smooth 91.5FM on the evening shift, one of his famous brothers, Andrew, is scaring viewers of this medical expert panel show with the opener, “I don’t want to be alarmist, but we’re all going to die – eventually”. Like American show, The Doctors, which screens on Ten right after Dr Phil has finished thrashing out worrisome family scenarios, Save Your Life Tonight examines, with the help of audience participation, health issues such as smoking, obesity, and tonight, mental health.

World Without End – final, ABC, 8.40pm

So this is why children should be in bed by 7pm. The elaborate television adaptation of Ken Follett’s epic tales from the cusp of British history just before the Renaissance is full of entirely appropriate bloody violence. If you’re unable or unwilling to suspend your disbelief and enter a world of barbarism, Shakespearean tragedy and romance, and graphic cruelty and despair, look away. Among the cast of big English names, which includes Ben Chaplin (The Truth about Cats and Dogs), and Charlotte Riley (Peaky Blinders), are some excellent performances by actors from across the Atlantic. Cynthia Nixon kicks off her Sex and the City shackles as villainess Petranilla; and Canadian Megan Follows as Maud is no more the sweet Anne of Green Gables. Bridget McManus

Coastwatch Oz, Seven, 8pm

Ever since the NZ reality series which followed fisheries police around as they faced off against illegal anglers – and were more often than not told to go jump by offenders who knew the officers were in no way capable of taking them on – I’ve been an addict of this type of show. And while the Australian version lacks those beautiful moments where someone screams: “You want these pippies? Take the damn pippies! There! Now they’re your pippies, give yourself a fine!”, its still fascinating to watch the situations people get themselves into when they head out for a day on the water. This week the spotlight falls on an abalone fisherman who doesn’t seem to care he has way too many of the precious shellfish and two women cruising Sydney Harbour in a leaky boat who can’t see how that might be a problem. They’re hardly murder cases, but utterly rivetting. If only there were some pippies in there somewhere.

Scott EllisMOVIES

The Maltese Falcon (1941), Gem, 1.30pm

For his first film as a director, and undoubtedly one of his finest, John Huston adapted Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 crime novel with perceptive thoroughness, right down to storyboarding every shot required. It is a movie after Huston’s heart: nothing gets in the way of a good conversation, and most everything – including who will take a murder rap – is open to negotiation. Humphrey Bogart is Sam Spade, the San Francisco private eye whose business partner is killed in a long-running contest between various parties pursuing a priceless mediaeval artefact, in a film that coolly celebrates the power of greed to bend people to its will. Lean and tight in the plotting but crafted with an eye for unexpected interior shots, the film lets Bogart’s Spade memorably exchange theories with Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor), Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet). He’s bitter about what has transpired, they accept it with knowing pleasure.

Nebraska (2013), Masterpiece Movies (pay TV), 8.30pm

Alexander Payne converted his wry but low-key comic drama into black and white during post-production, a decision that added to the feeling that Nebraska is a film where the past – uncomfortable and misunderstood – hangs over everything, leading to dissatisfaction and stasis. Claiming that a marketing scam letter promising him $1 million is real, the ailing Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) keeps trying to cross Nebraska to collect, with his son David (Will Forte) eventually taking him despite knowing the truth. Like The Descendantsand About Schmidt, this is another Payne film about the changes experienced on a journey, although cemeteries housing forebears and ramshackle former houses make for a poignant progression. There are moments where the idea that Payne is mocking his subjects resurface, but the picture is better seen as a reflection on male stagnation, with Woody’s wife and David’s mother, Kate (June Squibb) the one person able to deliver the truth.

Craig Mathieson

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