Free to air
Countdown, SBS One, 5.45pm
SBS dismayed viewers by axing Letters and Numbers earlier this month but this beloved stalwart of British television is the consolation prize as both shows are based on the same French format. SBS clearly hopes that Countdown, which began in Britain in 1982, will placate irate aficionados of word and number games but it's not really the same, of course, and Letters and Numbers fans still have reasons to feel jibbed.
There is no Richard Morecroft or David Astle or Lily Serna in all their loveable geekiness. Instead we have the very reasonable but rather unmemorable Jeff Stelling as host, along with regular lexicographer Susie Dent, numbers girl Rachel Riley and, in this episode, comedian Tim Vines, throwing around puns and contributing to the general demeanour of self-satisfaction.
The format sees two contestants competing in three challenges - an attempt to make the longest word from nine letters, an attempt to reach a target number using arithmetic and a race to solve an anagram. It's all very affable.
Whether it replaces the hole in the hearts of Tour de France fans who have colonised this slot for the past month is another matter entirely.
Bored to Death, ABC2, 9.30pm
Things can always get worse, in life as in television, but only on Bored to Death and among bikies are matters as likely to be fuelled by drugs, mateship, recklessness and oddballs. George discovers he has prostate cancer, although there is a silver lining in the extent to which his sexy new urologist is willing to comfort him. But Jonathan's bad day rapidly disintegrates when he is kidnapped by S&M heavies and George and Ray elect to crack him out rather than pay the ransom.
The plot is mad, its execution madder still, and everybody from the weapons agent to the heavies is in confessional mode.
The sitcom is premised on a struggling novelist who moonlights as an unlicensed private detective, which sounds ridiculous, but it stands on its clever writing and breathes through its excellent cast. In this episode Ted Danson is in top form as the stoned and stunned George, and Jason Schwartzman does downbeat to perfection as Jonathan, shooting the breeze with his captors.
Louie, ABC2, 10pm
It would be interesting to know how LouisC.K. pitched the idea for this series to network executives in a way that convinced them to produce it. Each episode hangs around a stand-up routine, but it doesn't have a
plot, or any consistent characters outside the title role, and it's not even always comedic. It's just Louie talking in cynical tones about the futility of life's travails and him recruiting extra cast to act out his flights of fancy.
It's great such an unconventional format found its way to our screens, but this isn't the greatest episode. It starts in a public toilet, which leads Louie into a reverie about religion before launching into a re-creation of the way in which a sadistic nun traumatised him over the crucifixion of Christ at his Sunday school. The sequence is too long and laughs beyond wry smiles are reserved to the rolling of the credits.
30 Rock, Seven, 11.30pm
There are two ways you can laugh at this show. There are the classic Tina Fey-style one-liners, often ending in an exclamation mark, but maybe that's just the acting. (''I've never been so disrespected in my life, and I've gone and worked at the post office!'') And there is the sheer lunacy into which the ridiculous people that make up the fictional cast and crew of TGS with Tracy Jordan entangle themselves.
This week, attempts by Jack (Alec Baldwin) to cover up his more-than-Platonic affection for his mother-in-law results in them co-hosting the opening of a restaurant. Meanwhile, Liz (Fey) offends the youngest member of the cast - Virginia, aged two - by commenting on her chubby thighs and, before she knows it, she is being depicted as the aggressor in a hyped-up feud.
Savage U, Monday, MTV, 9.30pm
It's quite startling what a great TV talent sex-advice columnist Dan Savage is. Almost everything he says to US college students in this frank, fearless and fairly explicit series begs to be quoted. On women's magazines: ''Women reading Cosmo and then having certain expectations are like men watching hardcore porn and then having certain expectations.'' On men with kinks: ''There are no normal guys. If you dump the honest shoe fetishist, you will marry the dishonest necrophiliac.'' On the pressure many young women feel to remove their pubic hair: ''You should style your vulva however you want to style it.'' In this series, Savage and his producer, Lauren Hutchinson, visit a different university campus each week, doing a live version of his Savage Love sex-advice column with questions submitted by the students. The tone of the show is joyful and sex-positive, with an emphasis on safety and respect. That's no surprise, given Savage is co-founder of the It Gets Better Project, which sought to tackle the problem of suicide among gay teenagers by enlisting adults of all sexual orientations, including many celebrities, to convey the message that their lives will get better after high school. On camera Savage is charismatic, at ease, good-humoured and seemingly never flummoxed. MTV deserves every bit of opprobrium it gets for inflicting garbage such as Jersey Shore on the world but shows such as Savage U go some way towards squaring the ledger.
Little Jerusalem (2005) SBS One, 1pm
Laura (Fanny Valette) is a beautiful Jewish teenager who lives with her orthodox family in a Paris suburb populated by Tunisian expats. Problems arise when she finds herself falling in love with a Muslim guy. Laura's widowed mother is wary of the relationship, particularly given the anxiety experienced by Laura's older sister, Mathilde, whose obervance of religious practices has created sexual repression within her marriage and, as a consequence, her husband's extramarital dalliances. Laura is more open minded but she realises pressure will intensify when, while working the night shift as a cleaner in a high school, she finds herself drawn to her colleague, a Tunisian Muslim working illegally as a janitor. Religious beliefs and tolerance don't always find comfortable congruence. Repression often undermines self-determination. Can one obey laws and still be free? This is a well-made, splendidly acted and sincere film that suggests intuitive understanding and simple feminism are more than a match for conformity to dogma.
The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947) ABC1, 1.05am (Tue)
What a great double bill this old clunker would make with The Admiral Was a Lady. Many senators lack either couth or discretion - but then discretion is the better part of valour and honour is a rare commodity in politics. All manner of politicians, unable to control their egos (or body parts contained within the trouser), frequently attract the slavering scrutiny of the media and the ire of women who believe they have been scorned.
In Britain this was released as Mr Ashton Was Indiscreet so as not to outrage delicate sensibilities. It is, understandably, a political farce but director George S. Kaufman is more inclined to frippery than laceration. William Powell is Senator Ashton, a blowhard politician with sufficient ambition to imagine himself as president but nowhere near enough intelligence to mount an effective campaign. (Is that an impediment these days? - Editor).
So he hires a PR gun to promote himself and, with the use of a diary containing details of a litany of shady political deals, makes his run. Blackmail is the game but opponents also play dirty. Enter stage left the PR guy's fiancee, Poppy McNaughton (Ella Raines), a journalist who suspects the diary is up there with the McGurk tapes and Slipper extracts. Enter prompt-side femme fatale Valerie Shepherd (Arleen Whelan) with similar ideas.