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Underbelly: Squizzy, Nine, 8.30pm

”There’s not a word for what I am,” Squizzy, who is, by his own admission, a ”violent shit of a man”, says. Then he asks: ”You all love me so what does that say about you?” It’s an interesting question and deserves further exploration. Why, indeed, are we so endlessly fascinated by the killing and cruelty of the criminal underclass? Unfortunately, Underbelly: Squizzy does little to shed any light on this question. It’s a curious production that has drifted so far from the original Underbelly that captured our attention completely five years ago as to be almost unrecognisable. In fact, apart from the name, this latest incarnation of the franchise has nothing in common with its beginnings. There is a strange lack of tension in the production, which appears to be set in a theme park version of 1920s Melbourne. Jared Daperis does his best in the central role as the pint-sized psycho but in the end is unable to inject sufficient venom into the character to make Squizzy evil enough to be truly plausible. Ultimately, it all fails to be compel simply because we’re given precious little reason to care one way or the other what happens to Squizzy or those around him.

Ripper Street, Ten, 8.30pm

Despite the at-times stomach-churning gore, and the sleazy setting of the London slums, there’s always a slightly arch and gleeful undercurrent to Ripper Street. It’s there in the Victorian-era forensic technology and also in the cadence and modulation of the language and accents, adding an extra dimension to what is already a very entertaining costume drama. This week sees the introduction of Edoardo Ballerini as Frank Goodnight, a seriously nuts Pinkerton detective who has a fondness for brutal amateur surgery and a big problem with Homer Jackson. Meanwhile, Reid is called on to investigate the killing of an engineer who has dreamed up a revolutionary new ship’s engine. It’s a particularly satisfying episode in a series that has built nicely as time goes on. Happily, a second series is already in preparation.

The Time of Our Lives, ABC1, 8.45pm

The final episode of this cracking family drama series doesn’t disappoint. Benefiting from a stellar home-grown cast and some sharp writing, the quality has been maintained through all 13 episodes with a subtlety that is all too often missing in other efforts.


Mermaids: The New Evidence, Animal Planet, 7.30pm

You’d think the preposterous twaddle of Finding Bigfoot would be embarrassing enough for Animal Planet and its parent company, Discovery Communications. But no. Discovery has found a whole new barrel bottom to scrape in the form of fake documentaries that are best described as hoaxes. It began with Mermaids: The Body Found, which used fake footage and actors pretending to be scientists to create the impression that mermaids are real and the US government is leading a conspiracy to cover them up. When the program aired in the US last year, so many Americans thought it was real that the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a statement explaining that mermaids don’t exist. But that first cynical exercise gave Animal Planet its highest ratings since its 2006 Steve Irwin memorial, so now we’re getting this sequel. It’s more of the same, with just one small, wordy disclaimer after the closing credits admitting  it’s fake. Last month Discovery also got huge ratings from another fake documentary claiming that Carcharodon megalodon – a giant shark that became extinct 1.5 million years ago – is still terrorising the oceans. It might be tempting to write off these things  as a bit of harmless fun, but they only exacerbate the widespread misunderstanding and suspicion of science.


Annie Hall (1977), ABC1, 12.55am (Monday)

No sooner has the ABC shown the second part of a fascinating documentary about Woody Allen (Sunday, 11.30pm) than it follows up with an Allen classic, Annie Hall. It seems so long ago but there used to be much debate over whether one preferred the six comedies Allen made before Annie Hall or the serious, intense dramas that followed, such as Interiors. Annie Hall is the transitional film, and its internal battle between the gags and insight produces the exquisite tension that is at the heart of Allen’s masterpieces, from Manhattan to Hannah and Her Sisters and Husbands and Wives. Annie Hall is where he found himself as the artist. Diane Keaton says in the documentary that in real life she loved Allen more than he loved her, but who can dispute that onscreen they make one of the cinema’s greatest romantic pairings. Keaton’s Annie is a ditzy neurotic who falls for a grumpy neurotic (Allen’s Alvy), when all the signs are they should give each other a wide berth. But out of the tangled mess of these New Yorkers’ relationships Allen creates a hilarious, sweet and ever-lasting tribute to the idiotic resilience of humans as they try to find love and fun in a godless, underachieving world.

12 Canoes (2008), ABC1, 1.30pm

After the worldwide success of Rolf de Heer’s Ten Canoes, de Heer oversaw an internet project featuring 12 stories of the life of the Yolngu people of Ramangini. Using paintings, photographs and documentary footage, and narrated by actor David Gulpilil and others, it is a wonderful insight into the Yolngu people. The stories were later released as a feature-length DVD and are now on the ABC. Happily, the remarkable deHeer-Gulpilil collaboration does not stop there, as next year sees the release of their new film, Charlie’s Country.


The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.