Top five TV picks of the week

Check out five shows that will keep couch potatoes glued to their TV sets in the coming week.

Claire Danes won an Emmy for her performance in Homeland. Photo / Supplied
Claire Danes won an Emmy for her performance in Homeland. Photo / Supplied

Pick of the week: Homeland

If you thought the life of Nicholas Brody - the United States Marine turned sleeper agent and congressman - was complicated in the first series of Homeland, then you have to wonder what is going through his head as season two begins.

"The paranoia, anxiety quotient is cranked way up," is how actor Damian Lewis, who plays Brody, described the second series of the spy drama.

At this week's Emmy Awards he won for best actor in a drama series.

Homeland won best drama, the outstanding writing award, and Claire Danes won best actress (drama) for her portrayal of brilliant yet unhinged CIA operative Carrie Mathison.

In the opening episode of the new season, which screens here just a day after it premieres in the United States, Brody is forced into his most conflicting and dangerous situation yet - something that far outweighs having to shoot his friend and fellow Marine, Tom Walker, in last year's final.

Brody has been going about his non-violent approach to infiltrating the government and influencing foreign policy.

However, out of the blue he is contacted by one of Abu Nazir's undercover people and ordered to break into CIA boss David Estes' safe to acquire top secret and potentially destructive information. On top of all this his wife, Jess (played by Morena Baccarin), who is starting to enjoy the life a congressman's standing affords her and her family, finds out a secret about her hubby.

Meanwhile, after being fired by the CIA, Carrie has taken refuge with her father and sister and is still undergoing treatment for her bipolar disorder.

But when Israel stages an air strike on Iran and one of her assets comes out of hiding with some vital intelligence, her mentor and former sidekick, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), and old boss David Estes (David Harewood), ask her to go to Beirut to question the woman.

The mix of intense drama, action and provocative storylines makes compulsive viewing.

In an interview with TimeOut, Patinkin described Homeland as an "on-the-edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller".

"It was a script that clearly laid out the answer to all of this fear and violence and pre and post-9/11 thinking and attitude in terms of terror and fear around the world.

"And here was a show asking the toughest questions about why this happened in the first place. "Who was responsible? "Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?"

When: Monday, 8.35pm
Where: TV3
What: The plot thickens

Health pick: Is Modern Medicine Killing You?

This new local series aims to pick apart the bewildering array of available medical treatments, challenge conventional ways of looking at health, and help 20 New Zealanders with a range of debilitating problems improve their well-being.

Each episode features two patients who have tried to get well using prescription drugs, over-the-counter medication and even bizarre remedies of no scientific merit. They turn to Frances Pitsilis, an Auckland GP who uses an integrated approach to help treat the patient rather than mask their symptoms.

From the initial consultation and diagnosis, the show follows the patients - some of whom have common issues like high blood pressure, fatigue, and depression as they visit health experts, and try to understand how medicine works.

When: Wednesday, 8pm
Where: TV One
What: Taking a holistic approach

Documentary pick: The Last Ocean

After having its debut at the NZ International Film Festival, this heartfelt environmental documentary comes to the small screen. The Ross Sea in Antarctica is one of the last remaining pristine stretches of ocean on Earth. Its frozen landscape teems with whales, seals, penguins and other species.

Californian ecologist David Ainley who has been studying the Ross Sea for 30 years, describes it as a "living laboratory". But an international fishing fleet has recently found its way down there to catch the very lucrative Antarctic toothfish, sold as Chilean seabass in up-market restaurants.

This fishing is upsetting the natural balance of the Ross Sea, so Ainley enlisted the help of New Zealand film-maker Peter Young to help raise attention to the damage that is being done.

When: Tuesday, 8.30pm
Where: Prime
What: Protecting the Ross Sea, our last untouched ocean

Comedy pick: Californication

When we last left Hank Moody (David Duchovny), he had just been sentenced to three years' probation for statutory rape. Needless to say his ex-wife Karen and daughter Becca were not super happy about his dalliance with underage Mia.

As well, his best friend, Charlie, is dealing with a complicated separation from his wife, Marcy, and Hank was feeling a little unwanted. Two years and nine months later, Hank has moved to New York, Karen is now married to her old college professor, and Becca is at college with her new boyfriend.

Depressed after splitting with his girlfriend, Hank jumps at an offer to return to LA and meet up with hip hop-star Samurai Apocalypse (played by Wu-Tang Clan's RZA) who is keen for Hank to write a movie for him to star in.

When: Monday, 9.45pm
Where: TV3
What: Has probation helped Hank clean up his act?

Drama pick: One Night

Rather eerily, this four-part BBC drama was filmed only a few weeks before riots broke out in London last year, and has received acclaim for it's thoughtful musing on social stereotypes, gang culture and the very human habit of jumping to conclusions.

Set over one hot summer's night when nerves are frayed and tensions ride high, it follows the stories of four very ordinary but very different people connected by a seemingly trivial event. With each episode taking on one character's view of events, it slowly reveals how different the story may be from another perspective.

In the first episode, 13-year-old Alfie is questioned by police after handing in a gun used in a fatal council estate shooting. Anger and accusations arise in the area and revenge attacks are being planned.

When: Tuesday, 9.30pm
Where: UKTV
What: There's always more than one side to the story

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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