TV Pick of the week: Whitechapel

Back in the 1960s, twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray ruled the East End of London through organised crime.

With police and politicians under their thumb, the Krays had a fearsome influence on all sources of power. Armed robberies, arson, protection rackets, assaults, torture and murder all featured heavily in their world. Not a fun time to live in Whitechapel, by all accounts.

After their deaths, the myth continued to grow, fuelled by endless newspaper articles, documentaries, books, biographies, walking tours and confessions of former associates.


Decades later in this returning British cop drama, the detectives of Whitechapel have not long finished dealing with a Jack the Ripper copycat (who, unfortunately, got away) in series one, when series two begins with a man's mutilated body surfacing in the Thames. DI Chandler and his team begin to suspect someone is murdering old gangland mobsters in the manner of the Krays.

Unlike the British police procedurals of old, Whitechapel stylistically has more in common with the BBC's hit series Sherlock (in fact Phil Davies, who plays DS Miles in this series, was also in Sherlock, although on the other side of the law).

The tension in the cinematography, the unusual cutting, the blinding montages and unsettling sound effects all blend in a gothic world of gangsters (there are facial scars aplenty from a variety of razor attacks), contrasted with the often eccentric domestic world of the detective's office.

Strong characterisation and bold storylines are more concerned with cinematic qualities than reality, and there is an emotional distance (combined with a layer of dry humour) that separates the audience from the gruesome crimes, but it remains compelling television, with a hint of old-school noir-ish aspirations.

The politicking within the police force is central to this second series, with DI Chandler (played by Rupert Penry-Jones) and his team feeling trodden over by the gangland crime squad, headed by DCI Cazenove (played by a rather Dracula-esque Peter Serafinowicz) who assume control over solving the case, despite the fact that there are certain underworld crime figures involved who seem to want Chandler included in the investigation.

Forcing his way in to muddle things up for the detectives is TV personality Edward Buchan, a "Ripperologist" who attempted to point them one step ahead of the copycat killer in series one, and who now wants to lend his expertise in the new case.

When: Friday, 9.30pm
Where: TV One
What: Recapturing the Krays

Doco pick: The Lost Airmen of Buchenwald

Kiwi and World War II hero Phil Lamason is one of the main subjects of this documentary which tells the little-known story of 168 allied airmen imprisoned at "Koncentration Lager Buchenwald" in Germany.

Gunned down in France in 1944, these men were eventually captured by the Gestapo and sent to the infamous concentration camp.
As one of the men recounts: "Once you fall into the hands of the Gestapo or the SS it's game over. They play by their own rules."

Another remembers how, as they walked past the incinerator at Buchenwald, a German guard said: "The only way you leave this place is as smoke coming out of that chimney."

But the airmen had other ideas and under Lamason's command they formed alliances with other inmates, plotted uprisings and helped each other survive.

When: Sunday, 8.45pm
Where: Prime
What: Kiwi hero and concentration camp survivor

Drama pick: Packed to the Rafters

There will be no Kiwi actresses left in New Zealand if Packed to the Rafters keeps on at this rate. Joining long-time star Rebecca Gibney (who plays mum Julie), and more recent arrival Zoe Cramond, is another Kiwi actress whipping out an Aussie accent when Camille Keenan joins the show as Bree, cousin Coby's estranged sister.

Bree is back to fulfil a promise that she'd slap grandfather Tom (who's also Dave's father) if he ever got convicted again. After giving her grandfather a piece of her mind, she focuses on Coby, who's been settling well into his new life with the Rafters and as Jake's flatmate.

But Coby still sees Bree as a deserter and is reluctant to let go of past wrongs. Bree won't give up trying to repair her family, even if she is distracted by new relationships. Meanwhile, Grace has shocking news for her boys, and Ted shows sympathy to an unlikely recipient.

When: Sunday, 8.30pm
Where: TV One
What: Rising Kiwi stars

Political pick: Iron Jawed Angels

So the Americans have super-power status, they've got Gaga, and win way too many medals at the Olympic games. But there is at least one thing little old New Zealand beats the Yanks at hands down - and that's women's suffrage.

New Zealand women won the right to vote way back in 1893 (the first in the world to do so) but in America it took until 1920. And it had much to do with the influence and stoic agitating of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns.

This movie, starring Hilary Swank as (Paul) and Frances O'Connor (Burns), tells the true story of how this defiant pair of young activists took the women's suffrage movement by storm and forced the blokes at the top to make the change. It was not an easy road, with the pair risking their lives, doing stints in prisons and going on hunger strikes in the name of their cause.

When: Friday, 8.30pm
Where: Soho
What: The fight for women's suffrage in America

Music pick: Songs From the Inside

In this 13-part series four New Zealand musicians - Anika Moa, Maisey Rika, Warren Maxwell and Ruia Aperahama - go inside Rimutaka and Arohata prisons to work with 10 inmates to write, sing and record their own songs.

Directed by Julian Arahanga, who starred as Nig Heke in Once Were Warriors and has since directed projects such as last year's docu-drama, Dancing in the Sky, the series is based on a prison programme created by music teacher Evan Rhys Davies.

In the first episode, before the musicians meet their students, they are briefed on prison safety, warned of the dangers on the inside and not to give too much away about themselves.

On the flipside, Rhys Davies and actor Jim Moriarty encourage the musicians to open up so the prisoners will feel able to do the same.

When: Sunday, 8pm
Where: Maori
What: Rimutaka and Arohata prison blues