Top five TV picks of the week

Check out five shows that should have you glued to the couch over the coming seven days.

Like the book, each episode of The Slap exposes a fresh side to the event - told from each character's point of view. Photo / Supplied
Like the book, each episode of The Slap exposes a fresh side to the event - told from each character's point of view. Photo / Supplied

Pick of the week: The Slap

It's a typically sunny Australian afternoon, and a large group of friends and extended family have gathered to celebrate the 40th birthday of Hector (played by Jonathan LaPaglia - the younger brother of acclaimed actor Anthony LaPaglia) with a barbecue.

The adults gossip, tease, debate, swap news, and ideas, Hector's Greek parents meddle, and the kids do their best to amuse themselves.

Eventually growing tired of their antics, Hector sends them all out for a game of cricket, which goes well, until precocious 4-year-old Hugo is bowled out. Suddenly the game turns nasty, with Hugo waving the cricket bat violently at the others and, unfortunately, boils over to the point of Hector's cousin Harry slapping Hugo - who is not his son.

That is the premise for this new eight-part Australian series, based on a novel by Christos Tsiolkas. But it doesn't tell the whole story. In this complex group of adults and kids there are so many layers of tension, frustration, secrets, and opinions that the event richochets, setting off pressure points in every relationship.

With a strong, dramatic literary-style, full of foreboding and awkward moments, the series explores myriad modern-day issues. It is a realistic clash of cross-cultural values, moral conundrums, friends versus family, mid-life crises, fantasies, love, hurt, regret and, overriding it all, the difficulties of raising a family, and some very mixed opinions on how to go about that.

In the lead-up to "the slap", temperamental young Hugo has been causing friction. First, he bites Harry's son, then smashes the PlayStation controller. Instead of reprimanding him, his parents coddle and comfort him (his mother even breastfeeds him), which makes things awkward for the other parents.

Hugo's dad has been arguing with Harry about everything from the merits of soap operas to private versus state schools. Hector's wife Aisha (Sophie Okonedo) is stressed, struggling to see eye to eye with her in-laws and her husband Hector, who deals with his rising unease by taking drugs, and inviting Connie, the 17-year-old with whom he's infatuated, to the party.

Told from the points of view of eight different characters, each episode reveals a new side to the event.

When: Wednesday, 8.30pm
Where: TV3
What: The underbelly of Aussie's middle-class.

Drama pick: Vera

This detective drama is based on the best-selling books by Ann Cleeves about Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope, an opinionated copper who likes a tipple.

Starring Brenda Blethyn, whose breakthrough role was as Cynthia in the 1996 film Secrets and Lies, the series starts with an investigation into the death of a teenage boy. He is found strangled in his bath surrounded by flowers and candles. When Vera is told about a friend of the boys who drowned in the bath months earlier, and teacher, Lily Marsh, also turns up dead, she finds herself on the trail of a serial killer. Later, she also reopens an investigation to solve the murder of a teenage girl.

But though Vera may be a whizz at solving cases, the series also delves into her own dark and tumultuous past.

When: Friday, 8.30pm
Where: TV One
What: DCI Vera on the case.

Travel pick: Postcard From Afghanistan With Mike King

Of course, veteran stand-up Mike King can't help but tell a few jokes on his journey through Afghanistan - like the one about the Afghan people having stood up to everyone from Genghis Khan and British invaders with the "resolve of 100,000 mother in laws".

However, there is a serious side to his mission in which King is checking out how our troops are getting on and delving into the history of a country that he says he has always wanted to visit.

Though when one of his army minders is strapping him into his body armour you can tell the reality of this volatile place is finally starting to sink in for King.

But as he also says: "For all the violence and hardship of this land, it sure is spectacular."

When: Tuesday, 8.30pm
Where: TV One
What: Comedian's duty tour.

Finals pick: House

The final-ever episode of House - after eight seasons and 177 shows - is called Everybody Dies, which doesn't bode well for the wily and intimidating doctor.

Actor Hugh Laurie, in an interview with TimeOut last week, wasn't giving anything away about his character's fate as he is taken to "the edge of a precipice", which has been eight seasons in the making.

"Is he gonna step forward or step back? Is it life or is it death? I can say no more than that."

In the episode, House treats a drug addict, which leads him to delve into his own life and explore his personal demons.

Laurie says he's happy the show finishes with its dignity intact. "I never felt we did anything that wasn't true to the character or the show like, 'House gets a puppy' ... that's quite an achievement."

When: Saturday, 9.30pm
Where: TV3
What: Is this really the end?

Fantasy pick: The Fades

This spooky and intense six-part supernatural sci-fi series is a meeting of Skins, Doctor Who, and film The Sixth Sense - young Paul is an "Angelic" who can see dead people. Or rather, he can see the spirits of the dead who walk the Earth (known as The Fades).

At first Paul isn't aware of his special power, but things soon become clear when he sees a creepy, supernatural creature attacking a man and a woman. The man, Angelic Neil, later explains to Paul the Fades are the dead who are trapped on Earth and unable to pass on. Neil believes the one who attacked him has evolved and can now touch humans.

And so, along with his ranting and raving school pal Mac, it's up to Paul and his fellow Angelics to save the world from a Fades take-over.

When: Tuesday, 9.20pm
Where: UKTV
What: He sees dead people.

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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