Channel hop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 August, 2011, 12:00am


Every spring, Zhang Changhua and Chen Sugin join the world's largest human migration - as 130 million people leave the mainland's coastal industrial cities to return to their home villages for Lunar New Year.

The couple first left home 16 years ago, to become migrant workers in Guangzhou, leaving then one-year-old daughter Qin in the care of her grandmother. Hard as it was to split up the family, the Zhangs believed the money they made would give Qin and her younger brothers a better education and future. But as Qin grows into a restless teenager with ideas of becoming a factory worker herself, her parents must face up to the consequences brought on by their decision to leave home all those years ago.

Last Train Home (Bio; Saturday at 9pm) documents the Zhangs' story over several years, framed within the larger picture of the mainland's swelling migrant labour force. Emotionally charged and artfully shot, this documentary feature by Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Fan Lixin is a gem from the indie film circuit.

From the opening minutes of the double-episode premiere - two intercutting scenes of women running through woods, under very different circumstances - The Killing (Fox; Sundays at 9.50pm) will draw you in so quickly and quietly you won't feel its grip until it's too late.

Adapted from a Danish murder mystery drama of the same name, The Killing details the investigation into the murder of 17-year-old Seattle resident Rosie Larsen, led by police detectives Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos; Big Love) and Stephen Holder. The death of their eldest child not only throws the Larsens into a heart-wrenching spiral of grief, but ripples out into the community as Linden and Holder hunt for suspects, from Rosie's school to a local councilman's campaign office to one of the county's native American-owned casinos.

This is dramatic storytelling at its best: highly believable characters - we easily invest in them, flaws and all - and the deft peeling away of layers to the central mystery. There are no forced revelations here. We, like the detectives, have to earn each truth through subtle clues in conversation and sleuth work.

In the third and final season of Emmy award-winning dramedy United States of Tara (HBO Signature; Wednesdays at 10pm), Tara Gregson (left; Toni Collette, Little Miss Sunshine) enrols in college to finish her degree in psychology (oh, the irony) and finds an unexpected mentor in professor Jack Hattarras (Eddie Izzard; The Riches). Meanwhile, sister Charmaine Craine prepares for the birth of her child; daughter Kate (singer Brie Larson) trains to become a flight attendant; son Marshall tries his hand at filmmaking; and husband Max (John Corbett; Sex and the City) struggles with his landscaping business.

Expect things to get crazier for Tara and her alter egos before they get better.

Finally, Anthony Bourdain is looking a little bored in the sixth series of his food travel show, No Reservations (TLC; Tuesdays at 9pm) - that is until he hits a mother lode of cocaine in Panama.

Invited by Panamanian police to help destroy 60 tonnes of the drug as a way of 'sending a message to the country's traffickers', the former addict and chef turned food writer and presenter can't help but slip in a few jokes at the expense of Keith Richards, Lindsay Lohan, 'ageing supermodels' and himself. With an opening episode like that, the series promises more of the sort of over-the-top experiences that Bourdain is uniquely suited to guide us armchair travellers through.