Monday, January 12

Neighbours is returning for its 30th anniversary season.FREE TO AIR
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Show of the Week: Neighbours (series return), Monday-Friday, Eleven, 6.30pm

In March Neighbours will celebrate 30 years on our television screens, and even that foundation anniversary brings with it the kind of feelgood soap opera plotting the show has long favoured: the program was launched on Channel Seven but was cancelled after a single season in 1985, only to be picked up by Channel Ten at the beginning of 1986 and become an improbable and oversized success  at home and abroad.The show may have cooled off over the last decade, being shifted to Ten’s digital channel Eleven and sadly no longer launching pop music careers, but the week surrounding Wednesday,  March 18 should prove a bonanza of cameos and unlikely reappearances.

The likes of Delta Goodrem (Nina Tucker), Paul Keane (Des Clarke) and Stephanie McIntosh (Sky Mangel) are reportedly confirmed, with will-she-or-won’t-she chatter to undoubtedly build about whether Kylie Minogue will don mechanic’s overalls and return as Charlene Robinson.

It will be interesting to see how such a dedicated and lucrative burst of nostalgia ties in with the current Neighbours, because the show that has returned this year has toughened up its storylines. Any show beginning its 30th year will have different eras, and right now the events surrounding the residents of Ramsey Street in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Erinsborough are comparatively serious, even if they play out in familiar ways.

Traditionally, Neighbours has been the laidback alternative to the improbable – and sometimes deranged – tactics of its soap-opera rival, Channel Seven’s Home and Away, but there’s a distinct lack of family cheer at the moment. One strand has newcomer Erin (Adrienne Pickering) trying to kick a drug addiction and regain custody of her child; you can tell Erin has issues because she’s quite possibly the first character in the history of Neighbours to deliberately have dirty (non-blonde) hair.

Elsewhere the show’s “villain”, Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis), is back to being a villain, having commissioned a bashing that has police investigating and bribe money being handed out. “Make the problem go away,” the mayor of Erinsborough is told by his lawyer, but the real problem soon becomes that Paul’s nephew, Daniel (Tim Phillipps), has finally twigged to Paul’s mildly despicable true nature.Last year’s tornado has blown away some preconceived notions as well as a few trees, but Neighbours still reverts to familiarity. Erinsborough Hospital is vast when shown in an establishing shot, but no matter what, Dr Karl (Alan Fletcher) still treats every character, while there’s a romantic triangle unfolding between a buff boy and two hotbots that is so familiar Pythagoras could solve it.

Neighbours at this point is an institution, albeit a sweetly loopy one, and anniversaries or not it will roll through another year.Craig Mathieson

The Miracle Hunter, ABC2, 8.30pm

Simon Farnaby (whom fans of TheMighty Boosh  will recognise as hammy thespian Hamilton Cork), sets out on a global quest to find explanations for the superhuman powers possessed by travelling showpeople and YouTube sensations. On the first leg of the journey, he meets magnetic people. The first  is a nine-year-old rural Croatian boy, Ivan, who attaches spoons and weights to his  trunk. Farnaby isn’t convinced, but is too considerate of the young lad and his impoverished family to go about shattering their good fortune.  In Belgrade, Farnaby meets ‘‘human electricity conductor’’ Biba Struja, whose death-defying feats have a vaguely plausible explanation, in the way of a rare skin condition.

The closest Farnaby comes to testing the superhuman myth is watching ademonstration by Biba’s scientistfriend. After witnessing psychokinesis practitioner Ivan Roca wow a room of people  with his apparent ability to make them tilt backwards with an invisible string, Farnaby decides it wouldn’t be  nice to burst a belief bubble that brings such joy. So far, his quest seems more of a freak-show documentary than a serious attempt to find logical explanations.

Derren Brown: Infamous, SBS Two, 9pm

British illusionist Derren Brown works a clever schtick as a sceptic, busting trade secrets and insisting his abilities are available to us all. Aconsummate showman, he performs a series of impressive tricks that include ‘‘operating’’ ona young man with his fists. Thedisclaimer denies the use ofaudience plants, but how else  can such wizardry be explained?

Uncle, SBS One, 9.30pm

For a bonghead devoid of responsibility and prone to inappropriate behaviour, Andy (Nick Helm,  of Big Babies) is strangely likeable. In this first episode of  the BBC Three comedy, he is wrenched from the sofa by aplea from his sister to babysit hisnephew, Errol (Elliot Speller-Gillott), for an afternoon. A series of unfortunate events leads Andy and his young charge to a gay strip club, where the transvestite father of Andy’s girlfriend threatens an unpleasant form of grievous bodily harm.  Andy may be  a despicable character without the slightest of good intentions,  but his acerbic honesty delivers wonderfully wrong laughs and a hint   of something of substance beneath his extravagant facial hair.

Bridget McManus

MOVIES

Lucky You (2007), Romance Movies (pay TV), 6.20pm

Made as the era of underground professional gamblers gave way to televised poker tournaments, Curtis Hanson’s Lucky You explores the unpredictable milieu of the Las Vegas gaming culture, where professionals such as Huck Cheever (Eric Bana) are so enamoured of the wager they can’t refuse a bet – at one stage a desperate Huck accepts a $10,000 bet that he can’t run five miles and shoot a round of golf in 78 strokes in less than three hours. But the dictates of budget and demographics mean  Lucky You can never be about this netherworld.

Instead it focuses on Huck’s two key relationships: one new and promising, with a singer named Billie (Drew Barrymore), the other long-standing and troubled, with his father L.V. (Robert Duvall). Billie is naive and bubbly, although it’s never entirely clear why Huck values her, be it for salvation or support. You don’t believe  she could keep Huck from a game for more than a minute.

Edge of Darkness (2010), Seven, 9.30pm

It is not impossible to take a miniseries and remake it as a movie of equal worth – the various editions of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy are proof of that – but there needs to a durable framework. For Edge of Darkness, the American remake of the remarkable 1985 mini-series, the underpinning appeared to be nothing more than revenge: a man loses his daughter, so he pursues those responsible in an attempt to make them pay. It’s a primal, but perfunctory, approach and it can’t have been easy for director Martin Campbell, who handled both versions 25 years apart, when the comparison revealed the pallid failings of his truncated successor. Mel Gibson, looking worn by the years, is Boston police detective Tom Craven, whose daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) is barely home before radiation sickness and then an assailant’s shotgun blast end her life. The plot becomes indecipherable, the violence excessive and repetitive. Thankfully a Fox News reporter is on hand to reveal the conspiracy.Craig Mathieson

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