Saturday, April 6

Fresh clippings: Gardening Australia’s Costa Georgiadis.FREE TO AIR
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Gardening Australia, ABC1, 6.30pm

You just can’t make some people happy. I’m talking about the letter-writers complaining about Gardening Australia host Costa Georgiadis’ beard, his crusade for making better use of nature strips than as ashtrays, or the new opening-credit sequence. For the rest of us, however, the return of the ABC’s venerable gardening show is a moment to celebrate. Tonight’s episode illustrates the welcome shift in focus since Georgiadis took on the hosting role in 2012. There’s a segment on the oasis that the show’s researcher has created in her rented, inner-city house. Sophie Thomson presents a no-nonsense guide to fragrant plants and we meet a late-bloomer whose interest in gardening sprouted in his 60s.

Inspector George Gently, ABC1, 8.30pm

Tonight, Martin Shaw’s aptly named chief inspector and his hotheaded offsider Bacchus (Lee Ingleby) investigate the death of a young folk singer (played by Australian musician Ebony Buckle) who was left for dead in a car registered to an aristocratic, family whose lives unravel when the detectives rattle their gilded cage. Set to the backdrop of the May 1968 riots in Paris, the story is supposed to illustrate the new social order, but it’s let down by heavy-handed dialogue and portentous characterisations.

Lilyhammer, SBS One, 8.35pm

As a concept, the idea of dispatching Silvio Dante, Tony Soprano’s faithful and ruthless consigliere in the legendary HBO crime drama, to Norway is on a par with letting Kath and Kim run amok with handsome men in Italy or letting Mr Bean loose with Los Angeles’ jet-set. The appeal of this lightweight comedy largely depends on how amusing one finds Silvio as an oafish enforcer who, despite a new identity as Giovanni Henriksen, engages in much the same mischievous, tough-guy malarkey as Silvio did in six seasons of The Sopranos. The promising twist of Lilyhammer is that street-smart Giovanni/Silvio isn’t entirely out of place in the snowy backwaters of Norway, whose residents all have something to learn from the wise-guy (”treat the broad with respect”, he counsels). As a comedy, this plays to a fairly limited set of lowbrow gags, while as a mobster tale it’s too flat-footed and self-aware to elicit any tension.

PAUL KALINA

Motor Racing, Seven, 11.45am

V8 Supercar racing from Symmons Plains Raceway in Tasmania 

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Friday, April 5

Rivals: Wood and McLachlan.FREE TO AIR
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Better Homes and Gardens, Seven, 7pm

The friendly folk on this Friday night family staple do what they do best in tonight’s ”rescue” special – sort out people, plants and pets with lightning speed and inspire the citizens of the nation to get to their nearest homewares and hardware stores on Saturday morning. ”Fast” Ed Halmagyi shows a sailor how to make an anniversary dinner for his wife; Graham Ross saves a 30-year-old frangipani tree; Tara Dennis helps a hoarder; Rob Palmer fixes a DIY disaster; and Dr Harry Cooper visits a destructive cat and an opera-singing dog.

The Doctor Blake Mysteries, ABC1, 8.30pm

The establishment threatens to undo crusading medical sleuth and former POW Dr Lucien Blake (Craig McLachlan) in the final episode of this compelling whodunit set in post-World War II Ballarat. In his attempt to avenge the death of a female surgeon by disproving her suicide, Blake stirs up a hornet’s nest within the hospital’s top brass, incurring the rage of his nemesis, Patrick Tyneman (Blue Heelers’ John Wood). McLachlan comes into his own as the insatiably curious Blake, while the historical Victorian town evokes the backdrop of Midsomer Murders, its faded glamour adding a dark edge to a story tinged with tragedy.

7 Days of Sex, ABC2, 9.30pm

Condensing author Charla Muller’s year-long recipe for marriage revival (365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy) into a week-long, television-friendly sex plan, American cable channel Lifetime has produced this embarrassingly gratuitous program about couples forcing themselves back into the bedroom. Why apparently ordinary people would willingly participate in such a degrading exercise is a mystery. Mercifully, the actual lovemaking acts are not broadcast, but infrared footage of the sad, staged mating rituals are. Tonight, bickering Galen and Marilyn spend most of their time detailing what they dislike about each other, before the God-fearing Galen reluctantly visits a lingerie shop and emerges with a surprising purchase. Meanwhile, Derek and Chantal have a bit more luck after she takes a lap-dancing class and downs some cocktails in a decidedly more romantic setting. With a lack of professional insight, this reality-style show sits uncomfortably on the ABC.

BRIDGET MCMANUS 

The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler, SBS One, 9.35pm

He was a mass murderer but was Hitler also a charming man?MOVIES

Final Analysis, (1992) M Thriller/Crime (pay TV), 10.35pm

Director Phil Joanou, who documented U2’s self-congratulatory travails with Rattle and Hum, moved into features quickly and without a genuine feel for the genres he reworked. Two years after the tough-guy posturing of State of Grace, Joanou delivered the Hitchcockian thriller Final Analysis. Kim Basinger and Uma Thurman play impossibly blonde sisters who take turns twisting psychiatrist Dr Isaac Barr (Richard Gere) around their respective fingers before he wises up. Icy blondes, questions of identity, deceit and murder in a San Francisco setting obviously equal Hitchcock’s Vertigo, but Joanou is unable to add anything but echoed resonance and a certain chutzpah to the storyline. Thurman gives the one decent performance, offering both a devious surface and a spooked undertow.

The Prince of Tides, (1991) 7Two, 11.30pm

The second – and the best – of the three features carefully directed by and starring Barbra Streisand, The Prince of Tides is a canny romantic melodrama nestled inside a psychological mystery. Strapping football coach Tom Wingo (Nick Nolte) must leave South Carolina and take his southern manners to the strange land that is Manhattan, where his sister, Savannah (Melinda Dillon), has once again attempted suicide and her psychiatrist, Dr Susan Lowenstein (Streisand), requires insight into his family’s dysfunctional past. The film, which thankfully doesn’t have the narcissistic lighting and gauzy photography of Streisand’s 1996 feature The Mirror Has Two Faces, uses Nolte’s unease about playing a romantic lead to suggest the discord in Tom’s life, and the family saga – of shrimp boats, terrible unspoken crimes and an ambitious mother – can be resolved only by the emotional sacrifice of Susan. Yet, the emotional tug is satisfying and there’s genuine care taken with the material.

CRAIG MATHIESON

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Cocos Club demands fees for housing asylum seekers

‘We didn’t even get a thank-you.’ Cocos Club manager Maxine McCartney and president John Clunies-Ross. Photo: Wolter Peeters Photo: Wolter PeetersOn a mid-week afternoon, the Cocos Club is a hive of activity.
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The club, which is the bustling community hub of West Island, home to about 120 people in the Cocos Islands cluster, is run by a small and dedicated co-operative of islanders. But this tiny island, just 14 kilometres long, has found itself thrust into the national asylum seeker debate.

The remote Cocos Islands, an Australian territory just over halfway between Sri Lanka and Australia, has not traditionally formed part of the people smugglers’ trade route, but at one point last year, locals say, about four boats were arriving from Sri Lanka each week.

With scant facilities, federal authorities commandeered the social club – which is owned by the Commonwealth and leased to the co-operative – about half a dozen times in 2011 and 2012 to house asylum seekers while preparations were made to send them to Christmas Island.

The club’s management says it should be paid for its lost revenue during these times, and for the use of the facility. Angered by a lack of response, the club has sent increasingly higher bills to the Department of Immigration. It is now asking for about $79,000.

”It’s just frustrating,” club manager Maxine McCartney said. ”We’re a forgotten little dot of fly poo in the Indian Ocean.”

The club was first, briefly, taken over in 2010 before arrangements could be made to take asylum seekers to Christmas Island. The second time, over the Easter long weekend in 2011, the club was home to 86 asylum seekers, Ms McCartney said, from Easter Thursday to Monday night.

She said locals spent their days and nights pitching in, cooking meals for the men, women and children sleeping in the club – which also doubles as the island’s cyclone shelter – and sourcing bulk supplies of T-shirts and sarongs from nearby Home Island.

”So many people gave up their time without question, without hesitation, and they won’t get any compensation,” she said. ”We didn’t even get a thank-you.”

Since then, authorities have seized the club a handful of times to use as emergency housing, culminating in a period between May and July 2012, when it was closed either housing asylum seekers, or for cleaning, for 40 days.

Club president John Clunies-Ross said he was seeking legal advice.

A Department of Immigration spokesman said: ”The department has paid all outstanding invoices for which it is liable for the use of the Cocos Club on Cocos/Keeling Island.”

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Banks join fight against super tax slug

Resistant to raising taxes on superannuation: Financial Services Council chief executive John Brogden. Photo: Rob Homer Changing tack: Trade Minister Craig Emerson. Photo: Paul Jones
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The big four banks have joined a push to stop the Gillard government raising taxes on superannuation.

A delegation will go to Canberra next week to lobby Treasurer Wayne Swan to leave the super system alone.

The Financial Services Council, headed by former NSW Liberal Party leader John Brogden, will unite the banks and super industry bodies to push back against any move in the budget to raid the retirement savings of the wealthy.

The government is considering a raid on super to help rein in the ballooning deficit but faces resistance from within as well as from respected figures such as Bill Kelty, considered one of the architects of the superannuation system.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson gave the clearest hint yet that the government will shift the goal posts, saying there should be a debate on the tax treatment of the ”fabulously wealthy”. ”We are not seeking to impose new taxes on the superannuation accounts of ordinary Australians. But there is a legitimate debate about the very top end.”

Dr Emerson’s view provoked an angry response from the industry. Duncan Fairweather, chief executive of the Self Managed Superannuation Fund Owners Alliance, said the government was likely to sell any change as a Robin Hood-type hit on the wealthy.

”It is poor policy to raid people’s super savings to patch up the budget and poor politics to try to justify it as an attack on the wealthy,” he said.

The super industry said a $1 million nest egg – thought to be in the sights of the government – provided a modest annual income of $50,000, assuming a 5 per cent return on investments.

The alliance and the Industry Super Network, which represents more than 5 million members, called on Sunday for a greater consultation period than the six weeks until the budget allows.

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Networking

“The Neighbours theme song is iconically Australian and recognised around the world”: Barry Crocker.Who will have a Barry Crocker?
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His was the first voice to sing what is arguably the best-known TV theme song in the country, so it seems only fitting Barry Crocker should join the search for a new vocalist for the Neighbours anthem. Ten is auditioning singers for the job in an ”Ashes-style competition”, with contenders from Australia and Britain taking part. Locals in the running include former The Voice contestants Ben Bennett and Chris Ninni. ”The Neighbours theme song is iconically Australian and recognised around the world,” Crocker says. ”Having sung the original theme song 28 years ago, I am delighted to be involved in finding the next voice of Neighbours.” Crocker’s version was heard from 1985 to 1992. The new incarnation will air from next month.

Just what the Doctor ordered

Calling all Doctor Who buffs. That’s you, Adam Richard and John Richards, best known for their ABC1 comedy Outland. To mark the Doctor’s 50th anniversary, they, along with comedian Ben McKenzie, actor-musician Petra Elliott and ”a fantastic UK comedian they’re not allowed to name”, are presenting a live show and podcast at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. It’s part of the year-long Splendid Chaps performance and podcast project in honour of the good Doctor, which combines analysis, enthusiasm and irreverence in a format described as part intellectual panel discussion and part nerdy Tonight Show. The performances take place in Melbourne on April 6 and 13, and the podcast will be available on iTunes from April 23. Also, look out for new episodes of the I Love Green Guide Letters podcast. Live performances take place at the comedy festival on April 6, 13 and 20.

Korean prisoner exchange

Given the Korean peninsula’s sad and bitter history of conquest, political division and neighbourly distrust, it’s easy to imagine the currency that a local version of the spy-vs-spy drama Prisoners of War might have (the Israeli drama was also the basis of the riveting Homeland). Indeed, Keshet International, the distribution arm of the acclaimed drama, whose first season recently aired on SBS, has a popular Korean actor in mind for an Asian adaptation that it is peddling at the forthcoming MIPTV market. Among the slate of formats and shows that Keshet is developing is Tyrant, about an unassuming American family drawn into the troubles of a turbulent Middle Eastern nation. The pilot will be directed by Oscar winner Ang Lee.

Csortan’s splash landing

The first week of Celebrity Splash! wasn’t even complete before the stars discovered it wasn’t all the fun and games they’d imagined. Model-turned-television presenter Laura Csortan became the first casualty of the show, which asks assorted personalities to throw themselves off (among other things) a 10-metre-high diving board. She announced on Twitter she had injured herself and resorted to ”some strong ass pain killers”. ”Day 2 training and I can’t move my neck! I literally went in head first yesterday,” she tweeted. A Channel Seven spokesperson said Csortan is seeing a physio who would decide if she could continue in the series.

The Cooper-Griffin show must go on

It’s one of the most popular seasonal treats on screen and now, it seems, the CNN New Year’s Eve combination of Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin might get a longer run. The pair filmed a pilot for a new show at CNN last week, a ”humour-filled” project shot in front of a live audience. Griffin, a two-time Emmy winner for her series My Life on the D-List, may seem an unusual partner for news icon Cooper, but the pairing has proved popular each year and the show, if it goes ahead, could be part of a move towards more entertainment-based programming for the ratings-challenged CNN.

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