FREE TO AIR
THE GOOD WIFE
Wednesday, 8.30pm, Channel Ten
Other dramas have more glamour attached to them: the uber-styling of Mad Men or the cult fever of Game of Thrones. Some, like The Wire or The Sopranos or Breaking Bad, get more kudos and respect. But it's hard to think of another that's so consistently excellent. Perhaps because it fits the standard prime-time drama mould - tried and tested set-ups, recognisable character types - the enormous skill with which it's brought to screen tends to be underestimated. But look a little closer, and it really is impressive. There's always a lot more going on in The Good Wife than is immediately apparent: the family, the relationship, the legal and political dramas are so seamlessly intertwined, they tend to all simply appear part of one coherent whole, but each would have been painstakingly plotted out. Every single character matters - from the headliners, such as Julianna Margulies' Alicia Florrick, to her children, her colleagues and the roster of fabulous guest stars. It means we can pick up on any of their lives at any stage and be involved. And in every episode, the storytelling and editing are meticulously constructed. Take this season's opening episode. We picked up at the big dramatic moment of last season's finale, with Kalinda sitting in a darkened room, a loaded shotgun in her lap. That quickly escalated into a scene of shocking, explosive violence - just to get our hearts started. Then we eased down into Alicia asleep on the back seat of the car on a quiet highway, a scene that gradually built to its own climax before we segued to a courtroom scene that drew us into the main plot thread of the episode and had its own internal momentum. You could draw a graph of this - the steady rise and fall of action that builds in imperceptible swells across multiple storylines - for just about any of the 70 episodes so far, but such is the intelligence and subtlety with which that mathematical precision is executed, it's all but invisible. Instead, we're caught up on those waves, riding them to what is almost always a very simple final scene that's all the more powerful for its quietness. It's a beautiful thing. And it means whatever surprises or exhilarating moments tonight's episode holds, we know there will be plenty of both.
Tuesday, 10.30pm, Channel Nine
As we - and Zane - discovered last week, you don't want to make a big play too early. But it's never too early to start lying, scheming and manipulating, you just have to be a bit careful, especially when you have three experienced hands on board: Russell, from Survivor Samoa; Mike, who managed to set himself on fire during The Australian Outback; and Jonathan (Cook Islands, Micronesia), my favourite because he reminds me of Alan Alda. As always, there's a delicious mix of characters, from Roxy (who discovers Jesus doesn't actually feed you, keep you warm or help you win challenges) to the fabulous Denise, the sex therapist, and Jeff, the sports star whose entire conversation comprises sports cliches. There are some wonderful lines, and ''Don't get booty-blinded'' is one we can all live by. Survivor is a fascinating study in human nature, especially during tribal council, which is a cracker tonight.
LUKE NGUYEN'S GREATER MEKONG
Thursday, 8pm, SBS One
Luke Nguyen is back on that mighty river, this time starting in Laos for a journey that will take him through Cambodia and back to his roots in Vietnam. For now, though, we're spending time in the capital, Vientiane, where, among other things, I finally learn how to pronounce it. Along with the glorious scenery, the titbits of history, the culture, colour and character, plus Nguyen's charming screen presence, the thing I love most about this series is his utterly uncompromising approach to food. As he shows us around local markets and introduces us to the cuisine, the menu encompasses grasshopper stir-fry, barbecued buffalo hide, and a salad made with fresh ducks' blood. I love the fact that he makes absolutely no concessions to Western tastes, either in the complexity of the dishes he prepares or their confronting ingredients. It's a genuinely multicultural lesson and, while I won't be trying this at home, it's exhilarating to watch.
Wednesday, 7.30pm, Channel Ten
Well. Rachel, Finn, Quinn and Kurt have finally - finally! - left high school. But Glee wouldn't be Glee without Rachel, so this opening to season four addresses that in two fun ways. We get to follow Actual Rachel's adventures as she tries to make her way in New York; while the remnants of McKinley's glee club jostle for the title of New Rachel. We're treading familiar ground - the old high-school tropes of inclusion and exclusion - but there's lots to make this feel fresh, too. The script is bitingly funny. Kate Hudson guest stars as Actual Rachel's scary dance teacher; Whoopi Goldberg as the imperious dean of the arts college. Auditions for glee club allow for the introduction of new characters, including Actual New Rachel. There are terrific musical numbers, and our own Dean Geyer does us proud as Actual Original Rachel's college pal/potential love interest. Thoroughly enjoyable from first note to last.
THE WALKING DEAD
Tuesday, 8.30pm, FX
We kind of knew from the closing moments of season two that it was no more Mr Nice Guy from Sheriff Rick. And we'd all been hoping for a bit more of that, a bit less of the ''OMG! Zombies!'' and ''What do we do now?'', and a bit more of what the apocalypse might do to even the most decent of men. In last week's opening episode, we found our last brave few had not only become extremely adept at zombie slaying, several of them had actually started to enjoy it: a response that's both deeply human and deeply scary. The re-entrance of Michonne promises to enrich that part of the narrative even further. Then there's the creepily complicated potential of Lori's pregnancy now that everyone knows zombies are born as well as made. All these elements add some emotional ballast to a tale that was starting to need it. It's becoming both a story of the triumph of the human spirit and the more complex story of what must happen to the human spirit for it to triumph. There's certainly a delicious irony in the place our wanderers find as the ultimate sanctuary. Plus, of course, there's plenty of the gore for which The Walking Dead is renowned. We're starting to move into real Saw territory (which will please some and appal others). But even that gore has repercussions - beyond making us squirm - and that forms one of the major plot threads tonight, along with a potential new threat to ''paradise''.
CLASSIC ALBUMS: NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS
Friday, 6.30pm, Studio
If you know anything about the Sex Pistols, the backstory here about how the band got together won't surprise you (although it is always fun being reminded they were as much a manufactured band as the Monkees or the Jonas Brothers). Likewise, the conversations with extant band members is entertaining, if not revelatory. The real fun in this documentary series is the conversations with the producers, who not only never fail to provide fascinating insights into how iconic albums were put together, but give us a fresh appreciation of music we might not even like. So you don't have to be a fan to enjoy this, but if you do have a soft spot for Never Mind the Bollocks, you'll appreciate it even more.
TONY ROBINSON'S TIME WALKS
Monday, 8.30pm, History
In his opening piece to camera, Tony Robinson voices my exact thoughts on this episode: Brisbane doesn't have any history, does it? Apparently, yes. And in the established style of this lively series, he proceeds to show us. A group of tourists pretend to be convicts for him (embarrassingly, I didn't even realise Moreton Bay was a convict settlement). He plays dress-ups as General MacArthur. Did you know Brisbane was his base for the last bit of World War II? We also get some contemporary history, including the protest against the Springboks' tour in 1971, plus some spontaneous moments that add to the fun. We love a show that manages to educate and entertain, and Time Walks does that in spades.
GOK COOKS CHINESE
Thursday, 8pm, LifeStyle Food
I never realised Gok Wan grew up around Chinese restaurants, but that fact, and his heritage, form the foundation of this terrific new series. What I did know was that Gok lost tremendous amounts of weight as a young man, so the focus here is on healthy eating. But what's really enjoyable is the way he brings his style sensibility, his cultural and culinary heritage, that health message and a love of great food into one package. And, really, if you want to eat well, eat fast and eat healthily, you can't go past Asian food. Everything here looks beautiful, delicious and can realistically be made in less than half an hour. Inspirational.