Friday, July 6

Joyously trashy … Playing It Straight.Free to air
Nanjing Night Net

Playing It Straight, ABC2, 8.30pm

This is really scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of the premise for a reality television show. Cara, a single girl, and 11 men vying for her affection are holed up in a Spanish hacienda. The twist: not all of the suitors are straight. If, at the end of the season, Cara chooses a straight guy, they each win £25,000. But if one of the gay imposters hoodwinks her, he walks away with £50,000.

This is part joyously trashy television and part gaydar test, which is itself a joyously trashy pastime. The thing that really allows you to revel in its lowbrow splendour is Alan Carr’s camp commentary and the mariachi troubadour who periodically appears to recap events in verse – indicating that the concept is at least self-consciously ridiculous – with lots of double entendres and arch humour.

A South American Journey with Jonathan Dimbleby, SBS One, 7.30pm

Jonathan Dimbleby investigates how the changing economic and political landscape in South America is contributing to the continent’s shifting cultural identity. He was last here in 1978, since which time Pinochet has gone and millions of people have become literate and lifted themselves from poverty.

This is less a travel show than it is a study of the new South America, revealed in vignettes, from wrestling matrons to entrepreneurial seaweed foragers and relieved revolutionaries. Each is dramatically shot – you can almost smell the tobacco in the bar where the writers of a satirical magazine are meeting to discuss their next issue, feel the heat in a deserted concentration camp and hear the engines straining up the mountains at La Paz.

Those familiar with Dimbleby’s African and Russian journeys will recognise his determination to seek out the positive, and tonight’s portrait of Chile and Bolivia reveals a people humming with optimism, while he steps around the region’s many social problems.

Vera, Seven, 9pm

She doesn’t even brush her hair. Curmudgeonly old detectives are practically compulsory in crime fiction but there’s something rather thrilling about a female one whose voice occasionally warbles and who stomps around the station like a kid in a puddle.

This is the third of four crime dramas based on the novels of Ann Cleeves. Here the murder of a landowner who opposed plans for a quarry on her farm in Northumbria forces DCI Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn) to revisit an unsolved case from her early career and wade into the politics of the mine proposal, meeting a variety of very unstable people with wild looks in their eyes. The creepiness is in the crescendoing classical music and the fading-light shots of isolated cottages, into which the bolshie heroine wades with a brook-no-nonsense attitude.

New Zealand’s Next Top Model, Eleven, 9.45pm

It doesn’t matter how charmed you are by our black-feathered friends over the ditch, spending half an hour watching them sift through an obscure portion of their population to anoint one of them with a meaningless title is a prospect as dispiriting as looking for the remote control under the couch. No, wait, at least that search has the prospect of a satisfying conclusion.

The downbeat, self-deprecating New Zealand sensibility is way more loveable than the unbridled chutzpah of the Americans but it hardly gets your pulse racing, even in this finale, when one contestant is quizzed on her criminal record and we discover which belle rockets to slightly less obscurity. Not even the contestants look excited (one of them seems to have a problem opening her mouth to talk, making her the precise opposite of a blow-up doll) and the hosts look bored. ”The stakes are high,” they say, in deadpan voices.

Harriet AlexanderMovies

The Princess & the Marine (2001) Seven, noon

They don’t come much more blancmangy than this romancer based, we are assured, on facts – whatever they are in Hollywood’s twisted view of reality. Princess Meriam Al-Khalifa is a member of the Bahrain royal family, and the red-blooded marine is PFC Jason Johnson USMC, a Christian on duty in the Emirate. He meets the strong-willed Meriam and experiences a surge of something in his khakis. She is a progressive-thinking woman who bristles at the prospect of an arranged marriage to a Muslim but is well aware that involvement with the infidel soldier is a recipe for disaster. Has she seen The Princess and the Warrior with yummy Franka Potente? Will Jase have to go AWOL and desert his post for love? Will his girl make it safely to the US of A and make the transition from pampered princess to suburban housewife? If she is caught and sent back, what punishment awaits? Even in the most liberal of the Gulf states it’s likely to be severe – perhaps readings from the movie’s florid script, particularly the couple’s dialogue as they discuss the symbolic tree of life. In real life (or its equivalent) the couple has appeared on Oprah to promote their cause – as if that isn’t punishment enough.

Titanic (1997) Ten, 9pm

Like the later romantic confection Pearl Harbor, this is a full-strength teenage romance superimposed upon tumultuous events to make them seem almost significant. James Cameron’s sumptuously ordinary epic revolves around two youngsters from different social classes who board the Titanic for its fateful voyage in April 1912. True love never runs smooth … still waters run deep … icebergs of cold parental disapproval prevail against wild impetuous young hearts.

Confession of Pain (2006) SBS Two, 10.50pm

The beer economy doesn’t operate in Hong Kong but if it did, how many cases would a bloke have to fork out to have a detective friend investigate the mysterious death of his dad? Plenty, because the gumshoe would be obliged, in this instance, to wade through a slurry of weary cliches and predicability that demean the reputation of the Infernal Affairs movie franchise. The film is, if nothing else, a confession from its makers that they have run out of inspiration and subsided into a zone of melancholic artiness. Once again, Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro play cops, with Shu Qui as Sai Fung, the barmaid with a heart of gold.

Doug Anderson

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *