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Sunday, December 14

Actual teenagers: Nowhere Boys. Photo: SuppliedFREE TO AIR
Shanghai night field

Nowhere Boys, ABC, 6pm

What a relief it is to watch a TV show made for teenagers that is not populated by 30-year-olds creepily passing for 16 or scrubbed-clean Disney princesses who are 10 years into their career and two years off a Britney Spears-style breakdown. Even better, Nowhere Boys is an Australian production filled with actual teenagers in a familiar bushy suburban setting that doesn’t look like the mono-culture that is Ramsay Street. Tonight, as the police search for missing Andy intensifies, Felix (Dougie Baldwin from Upper Middle Bogan), decides they need to find someone with another water element and “magical potential” to bring him back. Enter new girl Saskia.

Shaun Micallef’s Stairway To Heaven, SBS One, 7.30pm

As a young man, Mad As Hell’s Shaun Micallef considered joining the priesthood. And while the Catholic church’s loss (can you imagine the sermons!), has been TV’s gain, Micallef has since wondered if he missed out on an opportunity to find the answers to the big questions in life. What to do? Travel to India, of course, where 900 million Hindus can’t be wrong. He wants to meet people who are very certain about their faith and in doing so dips a toe into the Ganges, meets the King of Puri and looks to “find a guru to find me”. In lesser hands, this type of spritual quest could easily turn into self-indulgent fluff. Heck, even the Beatles succumbed to a little too much introspection when they hit Rishikesh in 1968. Micallef, however, is a deft hand at self-deprecation and his quest to discover if there is “greater purpose than being a semi-professional Australian TV personality” makes for a funny and watchable journey. A thoroughly thoughtful antidote to Christmas craziness and consumption.

Louise Rugendyke

After the Wave, SBS One, 8.30pm

Given the unimaginable tragedy of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, it may seem cruel or perverse to describe a documentary on it as haunting and beautiful. London-based Australian filmmaker Amanda Blue rounds up a handful of survivors who lost loved ones when the wave hit the resorts of Thailand, as well as the forensic scientists given the grisly task of identifying the remains of victims. What emerges is an emotionally charged account of people who have overcome loss and grief and created legacies for the departed.

Paul Kalina

MOVIES

The Fog of War (2003), ABC2, 10.45pm

Somewhat wary and definitely unwilling to give an inch of ground in his battle with the past, Robert S. McNamara, the former US defence secretary who was often described as the architect of the Vietnam War, is one sure-footed 85-year-old in Errol Morris’s Academy Award-winning documentary. The determined McNamara, who died in 2009, is the perfect subject for Morris, the pre-eminent documentary maker of the last 30 years. A director whose often-pointed sense of tone and eye for detail is allied with an investigative thrust, he captures McNamara in all his peculiar glory, both as an individual and a product of the age he lived through. Morris doesn’t pursue McNamara, he draws him out, knowing that the technocrat will attempt to instil his own view, his own governing logic, on each flashpoint in history he was witness to. Ultimately the film doesn’t indict McNamara; it proves to be so fascinating because of the depth of understanding it provides.

The First $20 Million is Always the Hardest (2002), Comedy Movies (pay TV), 8.30pm

A satire of Silicon Valley at the end of the hardware era – when chip design was crucial, Microsoft was an unparalleled giant and the internet was only just starting to find mainstream traction, Po Bronson’s 1997 book is a period piece, but it’s aged far better than Mick Jackson’s ungainly movie adaptation.

The First $20 Million takes the technological twists and black humour and turns it into the cliched archetype of a group of unkempt young men who triumph against an overbearing oppressor. It’s Revenge of the Nerdswith a PC.

Assigned to the scrapheap at a cutting-edge research facility, Andy Caspar (recent co-star of The Code Adam Garcia) and his oddball buddies stumble onto a paradigm-shifting solution to their unwanted assignment, which naturally creates a whole new set of problems. The book was about very smart people whose path to visionary status was tangled up in commerce and greed, but the film is about geeks we are supposed to find amusing.

Craig Mathieson

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