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Friday, December 12

What’s essential: The Living Room. Photo: SuppliedFREE TO AIR
Shanghai night field

The Living Room, Ten, 7.30pm

The entire episode of this breezy lifestyle program is devoted to its popular segment, “Hot or Not”, in which the panellists, Amanda Keller, Bondi vet Chris Brown, TV chef Miguel Maestre and new-to-TV builder Barry Du Bois examine new gadgets and gizmos to determine if they deserve the tag “must-have”. Lots of froth and bubble predicted plus well-placed advertisements for things we simply must have.

Death Comes to Pemberley, ABC, 8.30pm

There has been much sniggering among the dainty ladies of this grandest of stately homes about how on earth the dashing Fitzwilliam Darcy (Matthew Rhys, gay Kevin from Brothers & Sisters) settled for the homely Elizabeth (Anna Maxwell Martin, The Bletchley Circle). Schoolgirl venom aside, well might they question the pairing that ended so promisingly in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. In the three-part television adaptation of the late novelist P.D. James’ murder-mystery of the same name, which imagines the Darcys’ future as a sort of period special of Midsomer Murders, the famous romance has been looking a little worse for wear. There is an awful lot of scowling and sulking, and zero chemistry between them. Still, there is a grisly death in the woods to deal with, the killer potentially one of their own. Terribly well made and beautifully written, if conceptually a bit outrageous.

Sex in the World’s Cities, SBS2, 9.20pm

This strange program, which has so desperately tried to be titillating but so far has succeeded only in being embarrassing and dull, tonight turns its attention on our own Sin City, Sydney. The narrator, dispensing with dreadful puns and overused innuendo, is so ridiculously twee she is surely played by a comedian. The sexploits of Sydney here include the national Sexpo exhibition, a man who paints portraits with his penis, and a sex shaman who specialises in non-contact orgasms for women of a certain age. Despite the ludicrous narration, the segment on sex workers for the disabled is genuinely moving. But there are two disturbing things: the narrator’s statement that, “All the local lifeguards are gay. It’s a good way for them to be part of the population”; and the obscurely explicit silhouettes of R-rated pornographic scenes that flashed between commercial breaks.

Bridget McManusMOVIES

American Gangster (2007), Channel Seven, 9.30pm

In American Gangster, a solid retelling of the well-worn crime film set-up of the daunting mobster and the dogged cop who relentlessly pursues him, Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe are distinguished by the way they move. Washington, as 1970s Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas, rolls across the screen, his shoulders loose and rhythmic; Crowe, as police detective and then prosecutor Richie Roberts, has a lower centre of gravity and a bull’s build – he’s perennially marching upwards as his assured adversary strolls along. Ridley Scott overdoses on period paraphernalia – he’s better with imaginary production design than period – but the lead actors make the most of Frank’s climb, as he imports nearly pure heroin from the Golden Triangle inside the coffins of US soldiers killed in Vietnam. There’s an obvious debt to Sidney Lumet’s films about police corruption in New York, but the real draw is the eventual confrontation of the two adversaries, not the story woven around them.

A Touch of Sin (2013), World Movies (pay TV), 7.20pm

Acclaimed internationally, including a win for best screenplay at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, but never cleared for release in its homeland despite reportedly getting past the state censors, Jia Zhangke’s corrosive quartet of stories depict a China where the inadequacies of a vast state commercial system and the lack of alternative solutions lead to the embrace of violence, whether against others or self-inflicted. A griping, unhappy ex-employee (Jiang Wu) at a former state enterprise goes on a bloody killing spree, while a young worker (Lanshan Luo) living and working at an electronics plant manufacturing gadgets for the Western consumer struggles to find something to cling onto in life. With composed takes that unfold with grim clarity, Jia shows a world where lives revolve around the machinations of commerce and the individual is lucky to be ignored instead of being ground down. It is barely disguised social criticism and arresting filmmaking, and the Chinese government’s wariness of it is sadly understandable.

Craig Mathieson

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