Channel Hop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 January, 2012, 12:00am


The American film and television awards season kicks off this week, with the 69th Golden Globes, which you can catch live at 9am tomorrow, on Fox Movies Premium (previously Star Movies); the prime-time rerun will air at 8pm.

HBO leads the pack in television drama with two nominated shows - Boardwalk Empire (currently rerunning on Max) and Game of Thrones (which saw a highly rated premiere here on HBO in August). Of the three other nominated series (which we have yet to see in Hong Kong) - Boss, starring Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) as a Chicago politician recently diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disorder; American Horror Story, a horror anthology created by Ryan Murphy of Glee; and Homeland, a political thriller starring Claire Danes (Temple Grandin) as a CIA operative investigating al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the United States - we are most curious about the latter, which has two best actor nominations and a whole lot of buzz surrounding it.

It'll be a close race for the five shows in the best comedy or musical category this year with Modern Family, New Girl, Episodes, Glee and Enlightened, all of which we've had the chance to see on the small screen. We are a little sad that The Big C - about a woman dealing creatively with terminal cancer - didn't make it into the pool, but its lead, Laura Linney, will go head to head with fellow statuesque blonde Laura Dern (Enlightened) in the best actress category.

HBO also dominates in the TV film or miniseries category with Mildred Pierce (currently rerunning on HBO Signature), Cinema Verite and Too Big to Fail (which will air next month); though Downton Abbey and The Hour make for strong contenders from across the pond. It's been a good year for well-produced, thought-provoking and entertaining television from America and we look forward to seeing all of the top shows hit Hong Kong, eventually.

Meanwhile, the premieres continue this week with A Gifted Man (AXN Beyond; Tuesdays at 10.55pm), a spiritually tinged medical drama about a brilliant-but-arrogant neurosurgeon, Dr Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson; The A-Team movie), whose carefully controlled life is thrown into confusion by the reappearance of his ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle; The King's Speech). His surprise turns to shock and disbelief when it turns out Anna is, in fact, a ghost. She asks him to brave the chaos of the free clinic where she worked prior to her death, to help her with some unfin- ished business. That doesn't sit well with Michael's assistant, Rita (Emmy winner Margo Martindale; Justified), who is accustomed to her boss' discipline. Touched by those in need and accepting of Anna's compassionate 'presence', Michael's attitude towards the rich and poor is turned upside down.

In the wrong hands, this premise could have turned out to be as ridiculous as it sounds. But series creator Susannah Grant and director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) manage to ground the show in a way that makes it both believable and heartfelt - the humanitarian message outshines the supernatural conceit. Except, perhaps, for when we meet Anton - a touchy feely spiritual medium and the only other person who senses Anna's presence. He's a bit creepy, but that could just be the non-believer in us speaking.

For those who love history and a night on the town, Party Like (National Geographic Channel; Fridays at 11pm) is a three-part series that takes a look at how history's rich and famous threw shindigs - it is a playbook of sorts for modern party planners with an unlimited budget. The first episode focuses on French child-queen Marie Antoinette and her love of champagne, cake and masquerade balls - and how it informs the planning of an epic 'do' at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. The series sits on an odd and at times forced juxtaposition of ideas - but it certainly proves that decadence has a long history and a lasting place in the world.

Finally, the Lonely Planet franchise has turned its lens on the mainland in Lonely Planet Six Degrees China (TLC; Mondays at 9pm). Oli Pettigrew (above) and Konnie Huq join the list of traveller-hosts, delivering the scoop on the mainland's most intriguing facts, traditions and customs as they explore the urban jungles of Chengdu, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shanghai, Xiamen and Xian, connecting with six personalities in each city to uncover its attractions and quirks.

In the first episode, Pettigrew is introduced to cosmopolitan Shanghai by six urbanites - most of them expat transplants with a unique view of the fast-paced city. Pettigrew enters the world of Shanghai's professional love hunters and signs up for a white-collar fight club in training for a brawl on the Bund. Along the way he chills out at a five-storey spa, meets a Chinese violin virtuoso and goes under the needle of a traditional tattoo master who leaves Shanghai's indelible mark on his skin, all the while making monkey faces and displaying his trademark sense of humour.

The series is light on history and heavy on hipness - which is an attitude that the mainland seems pretty ready to embrace these days.