FREE TO AIR
Blown Away, ABC, 8.30pm
Cyclone Tracy, the storm that destroyed Darwin, remains one of the worst natural disasters in Australia’s history. Seventy per cent of the city’s homes were destroyed or suffered major damage as winds of up to 217km/h were recorded (although experts estimate they got even higher; the Bureau of Meteorology’s anemometer was destroyed). The population of 45,000 was reduced to just 10,000 as the country’s largest civil evacuation took place. Blown Away explores first-hand accounts from locals, MPs, police and emergency workers who lived through the ordeal and covers myths that grew out of the disaster and reveals some new perspectives, most interestingly the views of some of the traditional owners of the Darwin area, the Larrakia people, and their explanations for the cyclone and its devastation. Rather than dramatic re-enactments, the producers chose the increasingly popular path of animation to interpret first-hand anecdotes, and it works particularly well here.
Music for Elephants, SBS One, 8.30pm
This really is a film about a man, British artist and former concert pianist Paul Barton, who spends an extraordinary amount of time playing piano for elephants. Barton lives in Thailand and since 1996 has been playing piano for pachyderms at a home for former logging elephants or those used in the tourist trade. Several of the elephants have been blinded from their years logging, and it’s the effect the music has on them that is most moving. There’s even a killer bull-elephant who seems to chill out when Barton plays Beethoven. Of course, he’s not tickling any ivories here – all his pianos are made with plastic keys.
House of Lies, Eleven, 10.10pm
The second season opener picks up as Marty (Don Cheadle) and Jeannie (Kristen Bell) meet outside the office for the first time since their drunken night together and since Jeannie’s fall from grace, with both the company and her fiance. Neither recall what happened that night, although the episode is peppered with flashbacks, plus one hell of a revelation for Jeannie.
The scene where they meet the mysterious Mr Pincus in person, despite still not knowing who he is or what business he’s in, is tonight’s highlight. Well, after the flashback to Marty and Jeanne’s joint street urination scene, anyway.
Arthur (1981), Nine, 1pm
Ah, the challenges of inherited wealth. Poor Arthur Bach (Dudley Moore) is an inebriated layabout, heir to a massive family fortune, but only on the condition that he marries an upper-class lady (Jill Eikenberry), who will hopefully make a better man out of him.
He falls instead for a shoplifter named Linda (Liza Minnelli).
Steve Gordon’s Arthur was a huge hit in its day, and its title tune, Arthur’s Song (Best That You Can Do), won an Oscar.
It is engaging but slight, with Dudley Moore and John Gielgud (as Arthur’s valet) clearly having great fun.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Fox Classics (pay-TV), 8.35pm
For decades, a staple of Christmas television has been George Seaton’s 1947 Miracle on 34th Street, about an old man, Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), who replaces an intoxicated Santa Claus in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Adored by the crowd, Kringle becomes the new in-store Santa, where he startles everyone by telling the truth (including the fact that better roller-skates are available at a rival store).
He has in his sights restoring the true meaning of the festive season: “Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind … and that’s what’s been changing. That’s why I’m glad I’m here.”
Honesty and spiritual advice have got a lot of good people into trouble over the centuries, and Kringle is soon on trial for claiming to be Father Christmas. But as Fred Gaily (John Payne) proclaims, “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don’t you see?
It’s not just Kris that’s on trial, it’s everything he stands for. It’s kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.” Who can argue with that?
Writer-producer John Hughes did a remake in 1994 with Sir Richard Attenborough as Kringle.
It also usually pops up round Christmas and, if so, you might try that as well. Then you can passionately discuss with friends which version you prefer.