Top five TV picks of the week: Temptation to murder

Ashley Jensen has been lauded by critics for The Reckoning. Photo / Supplied
Ashley Jensen has been lauded by critics for The Reckoning. Photo / Supplied

After the grim reality of the past weeks' Appropriate Adult, TV One's Sunday night drama slot reverts to British murder tales of escapist fiction.

This one stars Scottish star Ashley Jensen in a marked departure from her memorable supporting roles in Ricky Gervais' Extras and the United States sitcom Ugly Betty.

She plays Sally Wilson, a former nurse and single mother to a teenager who has a brain tumour. Called into a law office one day, Sally finds she has been bequeathed £5 million - but only if she kills someone her anonymous benefactor says deserves to die.

But she can't but help consider the offer as her daughter's only chance is a lifesaving and very expensive operation.

She then confides in her boyfriend, Mark (Max Beesley), a former policeman now working as a security guard.

"I decided I wanted to do a drama about finding the truth in a situation, rather than a truth and a joke and a laugh in a situation," says Jensen of her role in the thriller.

"It is a very high concept drama as the idea of the story is two very ordinary people in an extraordinary situation. Hopefully part of the suspense will be with the audience, who will be thinking: 'Oh no. What would I do in that situation?'

After getting the offer Sally and Mark decide to investigate the man she's meant to kill as well as trying to uncover who has targeted her with the offer and why he's picked her - is it something in her own past? All of which she has to balance with caring for her ailing child.

"Her daughter, Amanda, is the reason Sally is even remotely tempted to become involved in this," Jensen says.

"Some of the scenes were quite painful to do because, as an actor, you do use your imagination and put yourself into these situations.

"I don't know how differently I would have played it if I had not been a mum."

"Sally is a person who, probably like most people in Britain, has never held a gun before. She has never been given £5 million before, she has never been on the run from anyone, she has never had to chase anyone, and neither has she ever been in a life-or-death situation in that manner before."

"It's two little people in this big world having to make this massive choice. They appear to be insignificant people with massive problems to deal with. It's all about feeling isolated and lonely within their own little bubble."

The Reckoning received mixed reviews when broadcast on ITV in Britain but many singled out the show's lead performance. The Independent said: "Jensen, better known to most of us for playing comedy, did the rest, turning what could have been an exercise in unadulterated daftness into a pretty gripping thriller."

When: 8.30pm, Sunday
Where: TV One
What: Deadly proposal

Comedy pick: Underemployed

With a premise similar to HBO's successful series Girls, comedy-drama Underemployed follows the fortunes of five college graduates as they try to get their lives on track.

There's wannabe writer Sofia (played by New Zealander Michelle Ang, from Outrageous Fortune), budding lawyer Lou, music industry hopeful Raviva, aspiring model Miles, and ambitious Daphne.

They all reckon they have potential for greatness in their chosen fields but reality sets in as they struggle their way through working odd jobs, romantic misfortunes and the other stuff that life unexpectedly throws at them.

In the first episode Sofia goes from thinking she can change the world - at least that's what she tells everyone - to working in a fast food joint, and Raviva's music dream is put on hold.

When: Monday, 9.30pm
Where: MTV
What: Life and other catastrophes

Documentary pick: Ewan McGregor: Cold Chain Mission

Just as he's appearing in The Impossible, a film about the Boxing Day tsunami, Ewan McGregor is also fronting this worthy two-part documentary.

In Cold Chain Mission, McGregor works with Unicef, following the complicated networks that have to be put in place for the distribution of vaccines in order to immunise children in hard to reach parts of the planet. Because vaccines must be kept cold the distribution routes must shift them from freezer to freezer - hence the title - which can be tricky in countries with fragile infrastructures.

In the first part, McGregor heads to the Himalayas. In the second, he's in the hinterland of the Republic of Congo. Through McGregor's warm and empathetic delivery, the documentary delivers an intriguing picture of helping half the world's children.

When: Sunday, 8.30pm
Where: Living Channel
What: Getting vaccines to those who need them

Finale pick: Private Practice

It's been a turbulent year for the staff at the Santa Monica clinic, and this final in the show's penultimate season delivers yet more ethical dilemmas.

Amelia goes into labour, and despite having consulted with Jake about donating her baby's organs to other children (as her child will be, in effect, born without a brain), the rest of the team find themselves in a tricky legal position - they can't declare brain death in a baby without one, but if they wait for the baby to die naturally the organs will no longer be viable.

Meanwhile, Pete is in jail without parole after his hearing for taking a patient off life support; and Addison finds herself juggling the needs of Amelia, her newly adopted son, and Sam and Jake. Is Sam finally ready to have a family with her, or is Jake the one she needs?

When: Monday, 9.30pm
Where: TV2
What: Difficult decisions for the team at Seaside Health

Finale pick: CSI: Miami

After 10 seasons and countless murders it's time for Horatio (David Caruso) and his team to hang up their holsters for good. The final episode opens with CSI recruit Ryan Wolfe (Jonathan Togo) lying bloodied and unconscious. When he comes to, he sees the dead body of assistant state attorney Joshua Avery (Ryan McPartlin) and soon becomes the prime suspect in his murder.

"Horatio and Co follow the evidence, regardless of where it leads - even if it's a painful place," says executive producer Barry O'Brien. "There's a chance one of our own has crossed the uncrossable line."

Inspired by original series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the Miami version, which follows a South Florida team of forensic investigators, is the first of the CSI franchise shows to be cancelled because of poor ratings.

When: Saturday, 9.25pm
Where: TV3
What: The final ever episode

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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