Animal Cops Detroit – Animal Planet, 4.30pm, Monday
Nooooooooo! Never before have I been so bitterly disappointed as the opening credits rolled. Why? Because it became immediately clear that this was a show examining the heroic work of the Michigan Humane Society; investigators criss-crossing the motor city, Detroit, to save and defend mistreated animals.
Which is fine, of course, except that I had tuned in for, well, animal cops. Because the title says: Animal Cops. Clearly. Animal. Cops. Which I had completely and utterly taken to mean German Shepherd dogs with badges, guns and coffee between arrests, chatting about the Red Wings. Cats in fedoras chasing bad guys. Maybe even a Detective Tiger taking down a gun man.
THAT is the Animal Cops Detroit show I wanted to see, but no, instead I got some earnest and slightly lecture-prone investigators endlessly disappointed by humanity as they find maltreated animal after maltreated animal in a Midwest winter. The show was made in 2002 so it’s not cutting edge animal cops, and it is depressing viewing, as you witness what bastards some people can be to our non-human buddies.
The commentary rolls along with lines like: ‘The fight to save him is beginning to look hopeless but they don’t give up trying.’ Which in any other show would mean they’ll somehow, heroically manage to win, but no, this is the hard world of Detroit, and so that dog dies. The investigators betray their disgust at people and rug up against the cold. Not once, not even once, do you see a poodle in shirt sleeves and with a holster, vowing that Duty Sergeant Krabowlski can have his badge if they pull him off this case.
Verdict: My version would have rocked so much more.
Bill Bailey’s Jungle Hero – SBS, 7.30pm, Wednesday
This is so English: a reasonably famous comedian being commissioned to follow his passion, which happens to be the jungle travails of a very obscure scientist.
This is Bill Bailey’s chance to stop trying to be Manny in Black Books or perform stand-up and instead speak intelligently and wittily about Alfred Russell Wallace, an amateur biologist who independently came up with the same Origin of the Species that Charles Darwin is now so famous for. Who knew that that theory was once referred to as the Darwin-Wallace Theory? Then again, does anybody care? Well, Bailey does and manages to keep his distinctive hair magnificent as he tramps around jungles, to recreate Wallace’s 1854 explorations and discoveries. It’s reminiscent of the late Douglas Adams in Last Chance to See.
Bailey is always likeable (‘’I was the farmer in Nanny McPhee, the sequel … that’s probably where you know me from,’ he shouts to local kids waving at him and the camera in Jakarta), also composed the music and doesn’t feel a need to toe the party line. Looking at a baby monkey in a market, he sighs and wonders what crimes and sins have led the poor little guy to even be there, with a 50 dollar price on his head?
The cinematography is incredible and the story interesting, but you need to be a nature doco kind of person, or you’re going to struggle to remain wildly excited about the plucky Wallace’s relaunch into a new millennium sun.
“I’m not actually a policeman. I just drank too much coffee.” That has nothing to do with Jungle Hero. It’s from Black Books. Still my favourite Manny line ever.
Verdict: Eat your heart out, Attenborough.
Surveillance Oz – Seven, 9.30pm, Wednesday
One of those Australian shows that specialises in putting the melo squarely in dramatic. The funniest thing is that the voiceover at the start of the episode I watched sounded exactly how I’d imagine the original pitch to the network would have gone: ‘Queensland Rail has one of the most extensive CCTV networks in the southern hemisphere with more than 8000 cameras. Particular hotspots such as level crossings are recorded day and night and there are in excess of 400 near misses every year.’
You know what’s coming. Oh yes, you do. For a network, it’s a dream: untold thousands of CCTV cameras are recording every move in every city and town. Somewhere, those cameras will have caught robberies, or near-deaths, or romance, or stupidity. A TV show without even the need for camera crews: just editors? Seven wouldn’t have been able to sign fast enough.
Surveillance Oz is actually a pretty entertaining show, even if the same money-shots are shown over and over to pad out the concept and the script is wound up to eleven at all times. “Playing Russian Roulette at a railway crossing can be deadly,” said the voiceover guy, although there was nobody spinning chambers in a revolver that we saw, or, even better: “Rowan has literally performed a miracle for a child he’d never seen before.” Literally. And no, Rowan did not walk on water or turn water into wine.
But, whatever. Surveillance Oz is magnificently breathless and dramatic. I know I’ll certainly reconsider driving through car park boom gates from now on, that’s for sure. Especially if I’m naked.
Verdict: Watching the watchers is brainless but fun.
It’s pretty much an entire show of this:
The Muppets – Foxtel Family Channel (405, 221 HD): Thursday, 8.30am, and Sunday, 1.30pm (and two hours later on Family +2, ch 411)
I approached this big screen reboot of Jim Henson’s little circus with much trepidation when it came out a couple of years ago, but I needn’t have worried. It’s true to the spirit and the characters of the original Muppets, has a bucketload of heart and features a toe-tapping soundtrack, including the Oscar-winning modern classic, Man or Muppet? (written by Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie). Jason Segel and Amy Adams get it just right as the humans in the mix.
Man or Muppet film clip: