Mercado on TV: Nine’s brilliant Aussie reboot, SBS’s event drama


• The original Halifax (9Now) is a who’s who of acting icons

A mammoth week of TV is coming and no, I am not talking about The Block (Sunday on Nine). An Aussie classic has been brilliantly rebooted in Halifax: Retribution (Tuesday on Nine), and drama double The Salisbury Poisonings and Hungry Ghosts (Monday to Thursday, SBS) is great event viewing next week.

Nine ruined Seachange when they brought it back last year, but they have redeemed themselves with Halifax: Retribution. The original Halifax f.p. (1994 – 2002) was a series of 21 standalone telemovies, but Retribution is superb and eight hours long. Having watched the first four hours, the quality never dips and the story never lags.

The original Halifax (9Now) is a who’s who of acting icons and this new series maintains that standard with Anthony LaPaglia, John Waters and Claudia Karvan. Jacqueline McKenzie reprises her original guest role from 1995, but it’s one of the only nods to the old days. This is Nine’s best Aussie drama since Doctor Doctor (2016) and they would be mad not to do another series.

Hungry Ghosts (Monday on SBS) draws heavily on Vietnamese mythology and the horror of war and the first episode is impressive. Bryan Brown, Justine Clarke and Ryan Corr star alongside Asian-Australians like Catherine Van-Davis, Lap Phan and Suzy Wrong.

The first episode sets up some spooky family dynamics and Susie Porter is a hoot when she starts daubing herself in blood. Being a ghost story, it might descend into silliness, but horror fans should lap it up while they wait for weekly episodes of HBO’s hot new scarefest Lovecraft Country (Foxtel).

To turn Hungry Ghosts into an event, SBS are screening it over four nights alongside a brilliant BBC true crime drama. The Salisbury Poisonings (Monday on SBS) is about the nerve agent attack on former Soviet spy Sergei Skripal in 2018. It’s a tense watch, with good performances from Anne-Marie Duff, Rafe Spall and Mark Addy.

The busy Mark Addy also stars in the addictive White House Farm (BBC First), another harrowing true crime drama about the murder-suicide of a family of five. Or was it? Great that Foxtel put up all episodes to binge online while it screens weekly on TV. 

So that is a pretty long list of things to watch, but add to that the return of Gogglebox (Wednesday on Foxtel, Thursday 10) and Brad Pitt in something called Celebrity IOU (Monday on Nine). Not sure what that is but it doesn’t matter because it’s Brad Pitt.

And check out Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky (SBS On Demand), Steven Oliver’s wonderful take on the famous explorer. It was funny, moving and also hit some sweet musical moments spots. More like this please.

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