Check out five shows that should keep couch potatoes glued to their seats over the coming seven days.

Pick of the week:

Votes For Women - What Really Happened?

History teachers are being given a helping hand thanks to the latest Sunday Theatre season, which does a fine job of focusing on New Zealand historical events.

Of these, Votes For Women may be the most instructive. The behind-the-scenes' look at the New Zealand suffrage movement and its key characters is a well-made docudrama which follows a similar style to the 2010 feature Waitangi - What Really Happened?


A fictional, time-travelling documentary maker heads back to the turn of the 20th century to observe the events of the campaign for women to get the vote, and to interview key figures involved.

Although some characters are composite or fictional, the feature has been created with the aim of painting a historically accurate picture.

But this is far from being a boring history lesson. By blending the political story with a tale of forbidden love, and with many talented local acting luminaries involved, Votes For Women turns out to be an almost Jane Austen-like period drama.

By October of 1892, Kate Sheppard (played by Sara Wiseman) had gained quite a lot of momentum in her seven-year campaign to compel the Government to give women the opportunity to vote.

She had a petition with more than 20,000 signatures, and support within Parliament from long-time ally Alfred Saunders and the wealthy Sir John Hall.

Unfortunately, just when she and her dedicated team of supporters think they've convinced enough bureaucrats, the bill is defeated in the Legislative Council on a technicality.

So the campaign begins anew, and with nearly 12 months before Parliament will sit again, the aim is to get 30,000 signatures or more.

There are highs and lows aplenty, with many working-class politicians unnecessarily afraid that women voters will curb their freedom - given that the suffrage movement was closely linked to the temperance movement - and shut them out of Parliament.

But it's not all serious.

The broadly painted characters such as the corrupt and manipulative Mr Fish, the indomitable, quick-witted seamstress union leader Harriet Morison, Mrs Sheppard's contrary young housemaid, and the young cycling advocate couple who are also campaigning for knickerbocker suits to be more widely worn, provide many an amusing moment.

The tale of chaste love between Sheppard (who is married with one son) and her very supportive printer William Smith (who is married with many children), played by Craig Hall, introduces some romance to the political setting.

Curiously, the feature leaves out any mention of the role of Maori women in the movement, and their support for the campaign - which was strong and vocal.

When: Sunday, 8.35pm
Where: TV One
What: Suffrage movement gets a romantic makeover.

Vampire pick: True Blood

The fifth season of True Blood focuses on the battle between the Vampire Authority, who want co-existence between vampires and humans, and "vampire fundamentalists". This means the introduction of new characters including Roman (Christopher Meloni from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), president of the authority, and radical vampire seductress Salome (Valentina Cervi) who wants to recreate a world where vampires rule. We also meet J.D. and Martha, who complicate the series' werewolf politics even more.

Sookie (Kiwi actor Anna Paquin) remains the centre of tensions in Bon Temps. When the fourth season ended, Sookie was surrounded by bloodshed, cradling Tara in her arms. As this season starts, Lafayette helps Sookie clean up and Bill and Eric are arrested.

When: Thursday, 9.35pm
Where: Prime
What: Drawing new blood.

Design pick: Grand Designs Revisited

In the first of these new episodes, design expert and host Kevin McCloud returns to one of the long-running show's first projects - and it remains one of its more bizarre ones.

He visits Andrew Tate and Deborah Mills, who, more than 10 years ago, started building a family home which would utilise a 30m water tower that was on site. They initially wanted to turn the tower into a seven-storey bedroom block, but when McCloud went back three years after the show, they had made minimal progress on the tower conversion. Now, 10 years on, he's back to see if they have finished.

Not that they'll get much sympathy from McCloud if it isn't.

"Yes, I can be sharp and extremely demanding," he says of his famously snippy comments.

When: Thursday, 7:30pm
Where: TV3
What: Return to the water tower

Sitcom pick: Mrs Brown's Boys
Mrs Brown's Boys is the creation of Irish comedian Brendan O'Carroll and since the early 90s it has evolved from a radio show into a series of books, a film adaptation, and an award-winning TV series.

Mrs Brown (played by O'Carroll) is a proud but meddlesome mum to six children. No one does rude, crude and utterly hilarious like bad-behaving Mrs Brown, who is at her best when she's larking about high on drugs or giving herself a bikini wax.

In the first episode, her son Dermot isn't getting along with his girlfriend, Maria, so she decides to do the motherly thing and offer some advice. But her chat makes things worse and daughter and psychology student Cathy has to intervene. Then Mrs Brown interferes again and a blazing row erupts.

When: Thursday, 9.30pm
Where: TV One
What: One bad but funny Mammy.

Comedy pick: Episodes

Rounding out TV One's Thursday night laughs, following Mrs Brown's Boys and a new season of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings at 8.30pm, is a comedy with Friends star Matt LeBlanc. From writers David Crane (Friends) and Jeffrey Klarik (Mad About You), it tells the story of a British husband-and-wife comedy team, Beverly (Tamsin Greig, Black Books) and Sean (Stephen Mangan, Green Wing), who go to Hollywood to make a US version of their TV hit.

But not only has uncouth conniving TV executive Merc Lapidus never seen their show, he insists they replace their accomplished lead actor with LeBlanc, who plays a fictional, and odious version of himself.

As LeBlanc told TimeOut last week: "The character is less who I am and more the public's perception of celebrity."

When: Thursday, 10.10pm
Where: TV One
What: Starring Matt LeBlanc as Matt LeBlanc.

- TimeOut