And it’s funny – thanks to the sharp writing and performances from the kids and adults, who are broad enough to appeal to all ages without reverting to over-the-top slapstick.
It centres on Mikey (Semisi Cheekam), a gentle giant of a 10-year-old who moves to Sydney from New Zealand when his dad (Daya Sao-Mafiti) scores a contract with the Western Sydney Bullfrogs rugby league team.
They live with Auntie (Maria Walker) in the back of her car repair garage, with Mikey sleeping in a converted panel van. On his first day at Block Street Primary School, Mikey is greeted by principal-elect Ms Crapper (‘‘the ‘a’ is long,’’ she says – another gold-star performance from Helen Dallimore, whose casting should be compulsory in every TV comedy) and squeezed into a spare uniform from the lost property cupboard.
That humiliation is compounded when he is paraded in front of his new classmates, who make fun of his size and then abandon him for the playground and the lure of foursquare handball.
Tiffany (Erin Choy) rules the four-square court with a ‘‘fire dragon’’ move that only ‘‘16 per cent of kids can return’’ and it’s her that Mikey must defeat if he is to realise his potential as a handball champion. The problem, however, is that Mikey prefers rugby league and it’s up to his new friend Jerry (Logan Reberger) to persuade him otherwise.
‘‘You can be a nobody, but if you can play, you’re a somebody,’’ Jerry tells him. This isn’t white-washed Disney, thank god. It’s home-grown television with a playground filled with the faces of modern Australia and lunch boxes that echo the same.
With the casting of Cheekam as Mikey and his Maori family, it also has a terrific strain of deadpan Kiwi humour, while its Australian pedigree includes co-creator Guy Edmonds, who starred as the smarmy cousin Hayden in the The Moodys.
The ABC is kicking goals at the moment with its programming for kids. Between this and the top animated series Bluey, there’s a lot to love. –Louise Rugendyke
Drag Me Down the Aisle
Monday, TLC, 8.30pm
Ten seasons in, RuPaul’s Drag Race has finally forced itself into mainstream consciousness to the extent that its alumni are able to have a crack at their own mainstream spin-offs. This special has drag queens BeBe Zahara Benet, Jujubee, Alexis Michelle and Thorgy Thor heading out to regional Pennsylvania to help diffident microbiologist and bride-to-be Emily. Emily’s problems are several: she no longer likes the dress her mother saved up to buy her; she has body confidence issues; and she needs to add some pizzazz to her reception plans. Naturally, our new awesome foursome are emotionally attuned and supremely qualified to help, and Thorgy even wins over Emily’s wary, conservative father by playing a little classical music with him. It’s a delightfully feelgood little show that should help solve problems and open minds on this side of the screen as well.
Save the Rhino
Tuesday, National Geographic,
Australian crocodile catcher Matt Wright (Outback Wrangler) and former England cricket star Kevin Pietersen are heading into South Africa’s Kruger National Park. They’re there to witness some of the shocking slaughter committed by rhino poachers – who continue to kill more than 30 rhinos each month – and to meet some of the people who are fighting to save the animals. Tonight’s instalment of the two-part series challenges the notion that poverty drives rhino poaching, pointing out that it’s a highly organised crime conducted by well-connected criminals. Hard viewing, but well worth a look.
Smiley Face Killers: The Hunt for Justice
Thursday, 13th Street, 8.30pm
It seems too wild an idea to be true. Has a serial killer – or a gang of serial killers – abducted dozens of young men across the US and held them for up to several weeks before murdering them and dumping their bodies in water next to telltale ‘‘smiley face’’ graffiti? It’s a theory that former NYPD detectives Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte and criminologist Lee Gilbertson have been advancing for more than a decade, despite local authorities declaring the deaths to be accidental drownings. This new series has the three of them travelling the US conducting their own investigations. Tonight they’re in Pittsburgh to meet the parents of Dakota Jones, who was 23 years old when he disappeared after a night out; his body was found in a river 40 days later. What they learn leads them to press local police to reopen the case.
Live from the BBC
Sunday, UKTV, 9.30pm
At last! A stand-up comedy TV format that really works! Live from the BBC features just two comics in each episode. The opener gets a full 15 minutes with which to work, and the headliner gets half an hour. It’s almost as if someone wants to give the performers enough time to establish a point of view and actually deliver some material. Tonight’s opener, Jonny Pelham, brings plenty of chuckles talking about growing up with a rare medical syndrome and being the only white kid in his class at school, but he then moves on to some ill-considered musings about child abuse. Headliner Sara Pascoe artfully alternates between darkness and grossness, painting an uncomplimentary portrait of herself and proving fiendishly funny when it comes to people being smug about having children. –Brad Newsome
The Water Diviner (2014)
Wednesday, 7flix, 8.30pm
Despite those who might wish Australia to celebrate victories in war (including Hamel on July 4, 1918), the public clearly prefers to focus on the defeat at Gallipoli. One wonders how many actually know that the Ottoman Empire surrendered to the Allies on October 30, 1918, or from that defeat the great nation of Turkey was gradually formed. No matter, Gallipoli is a story that touches us all, and it is a tale generally well told by New Zealander Russell Crowe in his debut as a director. Connor (Crowe), an Australian farmer, travels to Gallipoli after World War I to find the bodies of his sons, Crowe intertwining Connor’s unravelling of the mystery of the boys’ deaths with flashbacks to happier times in the Australian outback. Crowe is at his most restrained and sensitive.
The Man Who Knew Infinity
Friday, SBS, 8.30pm
Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel), an impoverished young man in India, writes to a famous Cambridge mathematician, G. H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons), and is invited to the august university to present his theorems. Despite the challenges of being so far from home and family, and confronted by racial prejudice, Ramanujan flowers under the mentorship and friendship of Hardy. It is a true story, conventionally told by director Matthew Brown but made fascinating by its two lead actors. Patel is one of the most instantly likeable actors on screen today (a greatly underrated talent), while Irons continues to impossibly grow in stature. He can be mannered at times (as in the recent but still-wonderful The Words), yet he can also deliver performances of such depth and truth (as in Lolita) that they will haunt you forever.
Curly Sue (1991)
Saturday, 7flix, 7pm
The least loved of the eight features written and directed by the great John Wilden Hughes jnr, Curly Sue is an undervalued and charming fairytale about two scammers (a man and a girl)
that riffs nicely off Peter Bogdanovich’s similarly themed Paper Moon.