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Critic’s choice

Posted by on 04/12/2018

The Block’s All Stars are a great mix and host Scott Cam (centre) is a natural in front of the camera.FREE TO AIR

THE BLOCK ALL STARS Monday, 7pm, Channel Nine★★★☆

And so the reality battle begins in earnest, with My Kitchen Rules, MasterChef: The Professionals and now The Block all going head to head on a Monday night. Bad news if you’re a reality addict without a recording device, but good news for anyone who appreciates quality programming. And this version of The Block is every bit as good as its time-slot rivals. All of these shows have been around for a few years, and it shows. There’s a real confidence to the way they are put together and, for The Block, that means bold colours, big music, great sweeping shots of the city (in this case, Bondi and Sydney), and masterful editing that’s constantly hinting and recapping in a way that whets the appetite rather than having us scream, ”Get on with it already!” The introductory segment to this new series is a particularly fine effort, reminding us of the show’s history and its key characters, and giving us tantalising glimpses of what lies ahead. As always, Scott Cam is the ultimate host for a TV show about building: a natural in front of the camera, he’s genuinely experienced in the field and exudes precisely the right degree of blokey bonhomie. And the All Stars are a great mix. With tradies Mark and Duncan from season three, Josh and Jenna from season four, Dan and Dani from last year, and the delightful Phil and Amity from the very first season, we get great characters and a nice divergence of styles. And then there’s the build, which, in line with the promos, promises to challenge the contestants like never before and provide us with high drama, and satisfying Cinderella stories. Certainly for anyone who has ever renovated (minor spoiler alert), the phrases ”supervise the build” and ”heritage listed” are guaranteed to strike fear into the stoutest heart. But the buildings – a row of four Federation cottages – and the neighbourhood are full of potential, not just as wonderful ”before and afters”, but as potential money-spinners. Sure, we get the usual heavy-duty bowing down before the sponsors. But we’re kind of used to that now and it pales into insignificance before the joyful collegiate vibe that buoys the contestants – and us – on what promises to be a helluva journey.

THE AGONY OF LIFE Wednesday, 9pm, ABC1★★★☆

Adam Zwar’s Agony Aunts and Uncles series were one of the highlights of my 2012 TV year, so I’m delighted to welcome back Zwar and his crew, and to find them all very much in top form. As the title suggests, the brief this time is much broader and if, in this first episode, not much is provided by way of specific advice, there are lots of wonderful anecdotes – and some poignant ones, too. Zwar’s questions range from ”What were your parents like?” and ”What did you want to be when you grew up?”, through to your experience of death and discovering that Santa wasn’t real. There’s the same excellent selection of archival film that so enlivened 2012’s series, and the same wonderful mix of heart, wit and, sometimes, wisdom.

ELEMENTARY Sunday, 8.30pm, Channel Ten★★★☆

Apparently the people who made Sherlock weren’t entirely thrilled that someone else had gone and done a 21st-century Sherlock Holmes, but riffing on the classics is an ancient art, and certainly Elementary is very much its own beast. I’ll watch pretty much anything featuring Jonny Lee Miller and it’s wonderful to see him finally nab not just a lead role, but one that fits him so nicely. Charming weirdos seem to be a bit of a thing with him and his angular face and soulful eyes make for an excellent Holmes. As for Lucy Liu as Watson, well, what a marvellous idea. Compact, gritty and slightly dour, this pilot episode sees her begin the transformation from watcher (Holmes is on conditional release from drug rehab and under her care) to enabler and factotum. I also rather like it being set in New York City. If you’re going to have a female Dr Watson, you may as well go for broke, and Elementary has also been so bold as to make up its own mysteries for our odd couple to solve. The ability of the writers to hold up that end of things remains to be seen but this is a really strong first outing that’s already a lot of fun.

REVENGE Monday, 8.45pm, Channel Seven★★★☆

All things considered, the ”Previously on Revenge …” is very tidily handled, and if, at the end of last season, you were wondering where we could go from here, that question is summarily answered. On discovering that her mother may be alive, Emily/Amanda declares with glittering eyes, ”Dead or alive, I’m going to find out what happened to her.” Of course, she’s also going to make the responsible parties pay, or, as Nolan puts it, embark on something decidedly ”revenge-y”. As a spoiler-free zone, what we can tell you is both Emily/Amanda and Nolan end up back in the Hamptons at the beginning of summer, and that the enclave remains populated by conniving, manipulative, fantastically wealthy people; that Emily/Amanda is at the very top of her (justifiably evil) game; and that fans of season one will not be disappointed.The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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