Top five TV picks of the week: Fly high with heroes

Flying in these conditions requires a high degree of skill. Photo / Supplied
Flying in these conditions requires a high degree of skill. Photo / Supplied

Pick of the week: High Country Rescue

Refreshingly there won't be any drunk drivers, fruit smugglers, or crazy neighbours in this new local reality show. Instead, High Country Rescue focuses on the highly skilled work of South Island Search and Rescue teams.

Each week the show will follow particular teams as two or three rescues unfold in different parts of the southern wilderness, from high in the Southern Alps to Fiordland and Wanaka. Although it has rather overdramatic background music and voiceovers, that almost seems warranted.

That beautiful scenery may make for breathtaking helicopter shots but it's also notoriously treacherous, and the show doesn't shy away from tragic endings, whether as a result of inexperience, bad weather, lack of local knowledge, risky behaviour or just bad luck.

A 27-year-old Canadian was rescued from Bonar Glacier on Mt Aspiring earlier this week after he became snowblind in bad weather and set off a tracking beacon, but not all rescues go as smoothly.

The first episode takes us up Mt Aspiring which, at 3000m high, is a magnet for climbers worldwide.

It's a clear and sunny morning in December when Constable Mike Johnston gets a call from DoC to say a 21-year-old climber has fallen from the southwest ridge, his climbing partner having raised the alarm.

The cameraman sits alongside the Alpine Cliff Rescue team of three as their pilot manoeuvres sideways down the mountain in search of the climber.

It's easy to see just how much skill and experience is involved in these rescues. With no idea where he is or what state he's in, the team is looking for a blood trail, or perhaps an ice-axe stuck in the snow, a loose piece of gear, or some scrape or mark that may indicate where he has fallen.

Filmed with seemingly very little restriction and open access, it's a tense reality check to watch the team face the possibility of death - their own or the victim's - almost daily.

It's not a show for the squeamish either, as later on another team heads into a Wanaka forest to help a mountainbiker who's had a bad crash and put a rather large hole in his thigh. Throughout the eight episodes, which were filmed late last year, we get to know the colourful men and women who make up the network of Search and Rescue and police services in the South Island.

They're a good-humoured bunch, never judgmental about those they rescue, and always focused on balancing safety and efficiency - even if that means dangling by a rope from the bottom of a helicopter as it flies across a mountainside.

When: Monday, 8pm
Where: TV One
What: Rescuers of the south

Drama pick: Pan Am

Think a lighter version of Mad Men in the sky for One's new drama series, Pan Am, where the focus is more on the air hostesses of the 1960s than the pilots.

These women, the image of perfection in the eye of America, are portrayed as the first wave of independent, liberated women (though they're still weighed before each flight and forced to wear girdles), with an appetite to see the world in the dawn of the Jet Age.

The luxurious planes and hotels in exotic locales are the venues in which romance blossoms, societal values shift and friendships are forged.

Directed by Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing), Pan Am stars Christina Ricci, Karine Vanasse, Margot Robbie and Kelli Garner.

When: Saturday, 9.35pm
Where: TV One
What: Passengers, this is your hostess speaking

Drama pick: The Jury

This gritty British drama stars Julie Walters as defence lawyer Emma Watts and follows 12 people who are summoned for jury duty in the retrial of Alan Lane, who is accused of murdering three woman he met on the internet.

With new evidence, which called into question his earlier conviction, Lane stands trial again and is represented by the controversial Watts, with well-known British actor Roger Allam (Iron Lady, Tamara Drewe) as prosecutor John Mallory.

The jury includes Paul, a single man who looks after his elderly mother, Katherine, a teacher who has had an affair with her 17-year-old pupil, and Ann, a devout Christian who finds herself becoming fascinated by Lane.

When: Friday, 8.35pm
Where: Prime
What: Retrial by jury

Family pick: The Zoo

In the new series you can get even more up close and personal with the lions, tigers and kunekune pigs at Auckland Zoo.

As well as being shot in HD, cameras have been installed to capture behind-the-scenes action. So you can be right there in the tiger's cage as they rip into a fresh deer hide pinata, or go swimming with Burma the elephant in the lagoon, and feel the fear of the poor kunekune pigs who find themselves in the lions' den.

New kids on the block include a rescued fur seal pup and squirrel monkeys.

In the first episode, cheetah brothers Osiris and Anubis take an early morning walkabout, and young giraffe Jelani heads to a new home in Australia.

When: Sunday, 7pm
Where: TV One
What: Say hi to the animals

Music pick: Prime Rocks: Michael Jackson Bad 25

It was no Thriller, and some might say it was no Off the Wall either, but with 45 million copies sold around the world and garnering five consecutive number one hits, Bad remains one of Michael Jackson's most impressive albums.

This documentary, from award-winning director Spike Lee, celebrates the 25th anniversary of the landmark album and tour. Lee sets out to tell the stories behind the music, including its most famous hits, I Just Can't Stop Loving You, Man In the Mirror and Dirty Diana, and reveals how meticulous Jackson was during every stage of the album's production. He made music videos for each track and collaborated with director Martin Scorsese on an 18-minute film for the title track.

When: Monday, 9.35pm
Where: Prime
What: In celebration of Bad

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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