Top five TV picks of the week: Back on the magic bus

Check out five shows that will keep couch potatoes glued to their seats over the coming week.

The Beatles - Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison. Photo / File
The Beatles - Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison. Photo / File

Pick of the Week: Prime Rocks: The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour Revisited

Among the accents of the many talking heads in this look-back at the 1967 Beatles film, which so perplexed Brits on its release, is a New Zealand one.

It belongs to Michael Seresin, the now veteran international cinematographer turned Marlborough winemaker.

Not long arrived in Britain to become a commercials director, Seresin got the job of camera operator on the improvised Beatle flick which was formulated in the wake of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

"Already there were abstract qualities in their humour, their writing and their approach to all sorts of stuff and I think the film was sort of a natural progression that came out of that culture," says Seresin. "I thought it was brilliant ... it was just sort of anarchic."

The British viewing public, possibly expecting something like A Hard Day's Night or Help! didn't quite see it the same way when the film was screened on the BBC as a seasonal special on Boxing Day that year, a month after the release of The Magical Mystery Tour EP of six new songs including I Am the Walrus and The Fool on the Hill.

What they got was dream-like surrealism, experimental camerawork, nudity, trippy interludes and a bus full of comic and carnivalesque characters. Many of those complaining afterwards were angry that the film appeared to be plot-less. This BBC Arena doco, which coincides with a further re-release of the original film and songs, looks back at the film from the points of view of its stars, its makers and those, who - like Martin Scorsese and Peter Fonda - thought it a pivotal moment in counter-culture cinema.

And it features surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr - as well as the thoughts of George Harrison in a 1993 interview - reflecting on the film's inspiration and impact.

McCartney speaks of his then growing interest in avant-garde film: "I don't mean to sound pretentious," he says as he attempts a comparison between the film and surrealist's Luis Bunuel's influential Un Chien Andalou.

But Magical Mystery Tour does appear to have helped pave the way for the absurd surrealism of Monty Python - the troupe's animator Terry Gilliam is another talking head - and beyond. Starr turns out to be star of this show. Not only was he the heart of the 1967 film, bickering with his "Aunt Jessie" on the bus and representing the love-hate relationship between old and new generations, but he's witty in his contemporary take on events.

Some cast members were randomly plucked out of a catalogue of "out-of-work artists".

And among the non-famous faces are a couple of now middle-aged Beatles fanclub members who joined the tour at the last minute.

One boarded the bus on Friday and was fired on Monday after failing to turn up to work. But to lose your job for a walk-on role in what has long been regarded a lesser part of Beatle-history, was still worth it for the memories. Even if she still struggles to explain what the film was about.

- Additional reporting: Independent

When: Monday, 9.35pm
Where: Prime
When: When prime time went psychedelic

Motoring pick: Top Gear Top 40

In the past decade of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have never been ones to let an idea's remarkable stupidity get in the way of it being entertaining.

This eight-part retrospective celebrates the best of the show's races and challenges, as voted by its British fans. It's presented by executive producer Andy Wilman, who offers stories behind the filming of the stunts and challenges.

Those have involved foreign excursions to drive to the North Pole or up Icelandic volcanoes when they haven't been at home trying to fire a Robin Reliant into space, or turn cars into boats. submarines or footballers.

When: Sunday, 7.30pm
Where: Prime
What: What were they thinking?

Chat show pick: Rove LA

Last year's first series of Rove's Los Angeles-based talk show might have made fans wonder if he had been better staying with his old Melbourne studio show and have the jetlagged celebs come to him.

But no, McManus is back for another solo go from the studio next door to where Ellen is filmed in Hollywood and his first-night guests are Russell Brand (about to head to Australia), pop star Adam Lambert (just back from Australia) and comedian Kristen Schaal (no plans to visit, but knows some blokes from New Zealand).

Forthcoming guests include Eric Stonestreet from Modern Family.

When: Thursdays, 9.35pm
Where: TV3
What: Aussie's Hollywood exile continues

Reality pick: Married to Jonas

They might have got their career from the Disney Channel but now the wholesome Christian American pop trio have shifted to the grown-up showbiz world of E! for a reality show following the marriage of the oldest Kevin to former hairdresser Danielle Deleasa.

She's a New Jersey gal from a big Italian-American family and the in-laws on both sides have a big presence, as do the fraternal band. After a year or two working on side projects, Kevin and bothers Joe and Nick have a new album in the works and possibly have hopes the new show will restore their profile to where it was when they were in Disney's Camp Rock.

When: Tuesdays, 8.30pm
Where: E!
What: Jonas hitched and switched

Comedy pick: Episodes

After getting shunted off its Thursday-night slot just as it was heading into its second series, Episodes - the sitcom starring Matt LeBlanc as a faded comedy star called Matt LeBlanc - returns to wrap up the sophomore season.

In the first of the seven remaining instalments, the new comedy Pucks! - created for LeBlanc by Brit writing partners Sean and Beverly - is dying in the US ratings and their lucrative Hollywood gig may be at an end, as might their marriage.

But producer Merc is distracted by the death of his father and they figure an extravagant expression of their condolences may well save their jobs.

When: Friday, 10.55pm
Where: One
What: Timely demise may save the show

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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