With television channels all preparing their festive scheduling, there's a noticeable lack of new shows premiering on Hong Kong telly at the moment, so this week Channel hop brings you a brand new American drama series that you may never get a chance to watch, the beginning of the end of a classic British comedy that may, or may not, be legal to watch and yet another spectacular documentary series from David Attenborough, which you absolutely should watch.
The power of flight is one of nature's greatest achievements and today more than 100 billion creatures soar through the sky, from the tiniest of nectar-swigging hummingbirds to bizarre winged reptiles and sonar-guided bats. David Attenborough's Conquest of the Skies (TVB Pearl, Tuesday at 9.30pm) sees the British naturalist, who will turn 90 next year, travel through time to unravel the astonishing story of flying animals, a tale that dates back more than 300 million years.
"We human beings are very latecomers to the skies, and although we might think that we're now pretty good at it, the natural world, with the help of several million years of evolution, has produced a dazzling range of aeronauts whose talents are far beyond ours," Attenborough says.
The three-part series begins this week with The First to Fly, which focuses on insects. Starting with the evolution of dragonflies (the mid-air mating ritual of damsel flies will put your most back-breaking sexual acrobatics to shame) before moving on to the migration patterns of the painted lady butterfly and the stunning aerial manoeuvres of the common bluebottle, Attenborough once again presents a master class in the natural world. Travelling to the jungles of Borneo, a hotbed for animal activity that the octogenarian has visited so often it must feel like his second home, we meet the monstrous Atlas beetle, an armoured, horned creature that could have sprung from the imagination of madcap filmmaker Tim Burton. Much like its human counterpart, the male Atlas beetle spends most of its life on a quest for food and females.
Next to follow insects into the skies were vertebrates but, with their larger bodies, they faced different challenges. Next week's episode, Rivals, examines flying frogs and lizards before the pterosaur is brought back to life with CGI.
The third episode, Triumph, concludes with the study of bats and birds (the footage of peregrine falcons and barn owls hunting is fascinating for even the mildest of ornithologists).
Next up is an epic historical drama series currently airing on FX in the United States; fingers crossed it will soon grace Hong Kong screens. I stumbled upon the trailer to The Bastard Executioner (above) only recently, after I came across writer Kurt Sutter, creator of Sons of Anarchy, discussing the show on Distraction Pieces, the podcast of British rapper Scroobius Pip (who makes his TV acting debut in the show).
Set in Wales in the early 14th century, at a time of war and political turmoil, the story revolves around a knight of King Edward I who has vowed to lay down his sword after narrowly escaping death. Of course, his sabbatical from sword swinging doesn't last long, as he is once again forced to spill claret in the name of stupidly violent TV action.
As in Sutter's previous projects (Sons of Anarchy, The Shield), he and his Golden Globe-winning wife, Katey Sagal, have roles in the show; she as a mysterious silver-haired healer. Sutter also likes the odd musician to pop up here and there (Marilyn Manson, Dave Navarro and Courtney Love all appeared in Sons of Anarchy), and this time it's British musician Ed Sheeran, whose guest appearance as a morally flexible weirdo is unlikely to win the charismatic singer any female admirers.
The Bastard Executioner is set in a dark and twisted world full of violence and betrayal at a time when almost everyone was a nasty piece of work, so, if you do manage to see it, expect a body count on a par with those of Vikings and Games of Thrones.
As one show roars into life, another bids a fond farewell, comedy Peep Show having entered it's ninth and final season a couple of weeks ago on Britain's Channel 4. While in the UK recently, I was lucky enough to catch the premiere of the new season, which hasn't lost any of its acerbic humour and can be seen online in Hong Kong, via HK Expat TV.
This web-based subscription service is being openly advertised online, so I'm assuming it is a legal way to view British and French TV programmes unavailable on Now, cable or terrestrial services.
This should make fans of the "El Dude Brothers" - as Peep Show characters Mark and Jeremy call themselves - very happy indeed.