Channel hop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 January, 2011, 12:00am

When considering the craft of a Hollywood legend such as Al Pacino (above; The Biography Channel, Tuesday at 9pm), it is difficult to distil the man from the film star. His dark, brooding persona seems to colour every role he's played over the past 42 years. Insofar as someone of Pacino's calibre can be typecast, the Italian-American actor has been marked by film-goers as the tough guy, the mobster. It may come as a surprise, then, to learn that the studio that produced Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather was against Pacino playing the part of Michael Corleone - the role that catapulted the off-broadway thespian to stardom in 1972.

The Biography Channel's exploration of Pacino's life delves into his artistic pursuits - from his first years as a stage actor, to eventual movie stardom and the independent personal projects into which he has applied his own brand of perfectionism.

Interviews with biographers, former lovers and long-time friends illustrate Pacino's struggles with shyness and a fear of commitment and his desperate desire to prove himself as a serious actor.

The hour-long programme is not an expose but it does reveal Pacino's love of and labour on the stage, which are often overshadowed by his Tinseltown career. While watching, you might find the urge to rediscover Pacino's first leading role, in The Panic in Needle Park (1971), his attempt at urban comedy, Author! Author! (1982), and Indie project The Local Stigmatic (1990), which was never released in cinemas and in which Pacino sports a British accent.

With a name like The Good Wife (Diva Universal; Mondays at 9pm), the legal drama might have scared off a few commitment-phobes and alienated stage-three feminists at the outset. Fans from last season, however, know well that the trope of a 'good politician's wife' is exactly what series heroine Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies; ER) refused to take lying down when sordid details about her husband, Peter's, infidelity were trumpeted by the press. We saw Florrick emerge from under the rubble of the scandal and, against all the odds, restart her law career and win the respect of her peers.

This season, along with Florrick's compelling cases and the well-executed courtroom jousts, we'll see more of the political machine at work, thanks to ex-con Peter's redoubled efforts to campaign for his old job. Peter's machiavellian campaign manager is always fun to watch, as is Florrick's enigmatic in-house investigator, Kalinda (Emmy Award-winner Archie Panjabi; Bend it Like Beckham), who has to contend with a rival snoop brought in with a firm merger.

The tight courtroom scenes and nuanced interpersonal relationships remain the bread and butter of this drama. But the ambitions this season are to delve into topical issues - not just in the characters' legal case work but at personal crossroads as well. Florrick's children, for example, are no longer passive protectees from smear campaigns; they find their own methods in the political process. Florrick's seasoned and well-connected boss (Christine Baranski; Chicago) senses a shift in the dynamics of her firm post-merger that makes her wonder if the old boys' club is reasserting itself in her domain.