TV picks of the week: Back from the dead

Five shows that will keep couch potatoes glued to their screens over the coming week.
Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Sherlock Holmes.
Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Sherlock Holmes.

So after his adventures in Star Trek, Middle-earth, Sesame Street and turing up in every second movie that came out in 2013, Benedict Cumberbatch returns to his signature role - that of the very best of the many 21st century Sherlock Holmes in the third series of the BBC hit drama.

The opening instalment of three movie-length episodes starts off with some, er, elementary questions to be answered: Like, why did Sherlock fake his own suicide at the end of season two and just how did he do it, given that it involved a daytime plunge off a very public building after finally dispensing with his nemesis, Moriarty?

Where has he been for the past couple of years? And what will his faithful companion John Watson (Martin "Bilbo" Freeman) make of his return?

Especially, now that's he got on with his life, got himself a girlfriend Mary (Amanda Abbington, who is Freeman's off-screen partner) and grown himself a moustache?

The answer to the death question is dispensed with in an amusing first couple of minutes taking us back to the scene of "The Reichenbach Fall".

That leaves most of the rest of the programme which is titled The Empty Hearse (a reference to the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle short story The Adventure of the Empty House) for a troubled Holmes-Watson reunion, an introduction to Mary, a kidnapping and a hunt for terrorists plotting to break up the Houses of Parliament on Guy Fawkes Day.

The arrival of Mary to break up the Holmes-Watson bromance was always going to be disconcerting for longtime fans, says executive producer Steven Moffat.

"I think there is a danger when you bring in a girlfriend or a boyfriend on a series. People worry that they may get in the way of the fun. But we knew we didn't want a Mary like that. That's also not the way that [Conan Doyle] wrote her. Mary always got along with Sherlock. I just think if you get it right, and you cast the right person, which we did, why wouldn't you like another lovely person to have fun with? She must be up for the adventure, that's what it's about."

Abbington says it was a challenge to be the interloper.

"Ben and Martin have real chemistry, and I had to hold my own in the scenes with them," she told The Independent.

"It was daunting, not necessarily to come between them, but to arrive as another dynamic."

"I had lots of scenes with just the two of them, and that was quite a bit of pressure. For instance, in the scene where Sherlock comes back from the dead and reveals himself to John, I really had to up my game."

As well as the Freeman-Abbington pairing, the first episode is keeping it in the family even more - Cumberbatch's real-life actor parents make a cameo appearance as Sherlock's mum and dad.

Magic pick: Troy

German-Jamaican magician Troy Von Scheibner, better known as Troy, was inspired to take up magic by watching David Blaine on TV.

Now he has his own show, which sees him combine street magic with close-up studio illusions in order to fool the public.

He's not the new Dynamo, preferring to eschew celebrity appearances in favour of getting under the skin of regular people in the street, and reckons his magic is as much about performance as it is about clever tricks. He likes to take inspiration from quotes and sayings, as well as looking to fables, Bible stories, and even movies for ideas.

The first episode is an introduction to Troy, and reveals a bit about his life - you'll see him with his family, friends, on a visit to the barber, and to his tattooist, before he does one final stunt.

When: Wednesday, 7.30pm
Where: TV3
What: The latest David Blaine

Documentary pick: Michael Johnson: Survival Of The Fastest

In this landmark documentary, Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson embarks on a personal genealogical and scientific journey in a bid to understand if he and other world-class African-American and Caribbean athletes are successful as a result of slavery. At the 2008 Olympics, every man in the 100m final was a descendant of the slave trade, and Johnson, who won gold in the 200m and 400m at the 1996 Olympics, is on a quest to find out whether the brutality of slavery has contributed to the genetic make-up of elite black athletes, while also delving into his own remarkable ancestry. He looks at the qualities which helped certain slaves survive the Atlantic crossings, and why that would help explain the success of a country like Jamaica in the sprinting events, even though people born today in West Africa rarely succeed as sprinters.

When: Sunday, 8.30pm
Where: BBC Knowledge
What: What makes the fastest runners so fast?

Lifestyle pick: The Block: Sky High

Home renovation show The Block takes things up a notch by asking contestants to face the extensive challenge of converting each floor of a tired, former South Melbourne hotel into one amazing, luxury, house-sized apartment. They will have 10 weeks to "demo and reno" over 80 rooms, and transform each floor of the hotel into a 220sq m apartment complete with three bedrooms, five bathrooms, open-plan kitchen, living and dining, plus an enclosed terrace. The hotel has solid concrete construction so that will provide an interesting challenge.

The cherry on top is that once they've finished the apartments, they'll tackle common areas like a large roof-top terrace. Of course, they have to live among their mess while renovating, abide by council restrictions, and stick to a tight budget.

When: Monday, 4.30pm
Where: TV3
What: The Block goes up a few floors

Reality pick: The Bachelor Australia

Tim Robards must make his final decision tonight, and Thailand's stunning coastal scenery is making things difficult. The final two girls go on elephant rides, ocean swims and exotic dinners with Tim as he debates who'll make the better long-term partner but, fortunately, his mum is on hand to ask the girls the tough questions and ensure he picks the right woman. Another Aussie reality series wrapping up this week is Big Brother. Come Friday at 4.30pm, the three housemates still standing will find out who takes home $250,000. For the grand finale, host Sonia Kruger heads to the house (the first time the housemates have had a visitor in 101 days), and there'll be a full reunion with all the housemates who've already been evicted, including former flight attendant Ben, who'd seemed like the firm favourite to win.

When: Friday, 7.30pm
Where: TV2
What: The final ceremony

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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