Tuesday, July 3

Episodes … Stephen Mangan, Matt Le Blanc and Tamsin Greig.Free to air
Nanjing Night Net

Episodes, Nine, 9.30pm

It’s not impossible to make a successful US adaptation of a British comedy but they often end in disaster and that’s the premise of Episodes. A British couple – Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig) – have just won a fourth BAFTA for their sitcom. They’re approached by an LA network exec to remake the show for the US market. They agree and things go horribly wrong.

The meta-meta story here is that this is a US-British co-production, made for Showtime and the BBC by Hat Trick Productions (Outnumbered) and written by David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik (Friends). It could have ended up as the kind of shemozzle that forms the premise for the series, but it works.

Matt LeBlanc stars as a fictional version of himself, the utterly inappropriate US star drafted into the lead role to make the new series ”more relatable”. LeBlanc (the real one) obviously relishes the opportunity to stretch his wings and he’s great, while the character is beautifully drawn. Like most Showtime comedies, this isn’t a laugh a minute but by the end of the second episode, which also airs tonight, it starts to hit its straps.

Too Fast to be a Woman? The Story of Caster Semenya, SBS One, 8.30pm

In 2009 South African athlete Caster Semenya won the 800 metres world championship in Berlin. Immediately, whispers about her became full-blown accusations. Was she actually a woman? That event is the starting point for a documentary encompassing a complex set of questions about gender identity and equality, about the politics of international sporting organisations and the way in which, when it comes to sport, how much of a natural advantage is too much.

Semenya is clearly not an ordinary woman but as several experts point out, no elite athlete is physically normal. They are all genetic freaks to some extent, so why are female athletes so pointedly targeted and harassed? Semenya is the most public but certainly not the only female athlete told she wasn’t sufficiently female to compete, based on some very dodgy guidelines. And beyond these questions, of course, is a human being – a teenager from a poor rural village who can’t believe an anonymous board of directors gets to decide whether or not she’s a woman and who just wants to run.

Archer, ABC2, 9pm

If Get Smart went R-rated – and animated – it might look something like this. Sterling Archer is an international spy with an inflated idea of his own abilities and a deeply misanthropic attitude. He works for an organisation run by his even more arrogant and misanthropic mother, Malory. Both the spies and staff spend a lot of their time drunk, on drugs, humping each other or fantasising about doing so. This is most definitely not family viewing. But, man, it’s a lot of fun.

It’s hard to capture on the page the dizzy joy of Archer’s rapid-fire dialogue, wildly intersecting storylines and sheer lewd lunacy. Tonight Malory is being blackmailed by the head of the KGB, who wants to marry her, which means Archer must go undercover as a gay man to seduce the Cuban agent in possession of the KGB sex tape, thereby giving over a large portion of the show to weird, clever, off-colour and hilarious jokes about gay men that are actually jokes about what straight people think about gay men. If this sounds like your idea of fun, please, tune in. 

Survivor: One World, Nine, 10.30pm

If there’s been another season in which the women have so completely dominated, I can’t remember it. And that’s not the only pleasure in this entertaining instalment. Tonight, a wild pig wanders into camp and the girls – desperate for a feed – start shouting, ”Kill the pig! Kill the pig!” This is Survivor, so I don’t know if any of them have actually read Lord of the Flies, but it’s absolutely priceless. 

Melinda HoustonMovies

What Makes a Family (2001) Seven, noon

Certainly not lesbian couples employing artificial insemination to bypass God’s procreative laws – according to some extreme Christians and retrograde wowsers. The issues are plain enough but opposing notions of morality are seldom as simple as a difference of opinion. This film ventilates some of them when Sandy Cataldi, a lesbian woman inseminated via an IVF program, gives birth to a child and, after five years of happy motherhood with her partner, dies. Sandi’s parents initiate proceedings to gain custody of the child, to the extreme distress of the grieving partner, Janine Nielssen (Brooke Shields). The case for an equal right to give and receive love is a little occluded by sentimentality but this is a better-than-average lunchtime flick.

The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962) 7Two, 2pm

In space no one can hear you scream – or even cry, ”Mip mip mip mip!” While preparing for an appearance on MasterChef, the Stooges find themselves in the laboratory of Professor Danforth, a dotty scientist who is developing a radical all-terrain, submersible and Earth-orbit-capable vehicle for the US military. But Martian spies have an eye on the machine and plan the destruction of Earth in their efforts to steal it. Shakespearean in scope, scale and execution. Beam me down, Scotty, I’m feeling a trifle nauseous.

One Nite in Mongkok (2004) SBS Two, 11.30pm

A typical December night in Hong Kong but not for the son of a gang leader who pegs out during the balletic ballistics of an impromptu street brawl. This provokes his grieving father to summon Liu, a local fixer who engages a hitman from the mainland to mete out suitable vengeance. Liu hires Lai Fu, a tough young punk from a fly-speck town who duly arrives in HK on a day pass to do the business. Local cops have heard on the grapevine that someone is about to get an unpleasant Christmas present, so a taciturn detective, Inspector Milo, decides to intervene. But first he has to find the warring brothers and the faceless Lai Fu, who, while an ice-cold professional, has some sense of decency – enough, it seems, to rescue hooker Dandan from a sadistic client and enlist her help in finding his way around the city. As the sun sets on a hectic day, Liu has double-crossed Lai Fu, the brothers are in hiding and Milo’s men are hot on the heels of Dandan and Lai Fu.

Doug Anderson

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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