Free to air
Puberty Blues, Ten, 8.30pm
Show of the week
For many Australians, Puberty Blues is a key cultural text, whether it be the 1979 book, the 1981 film version or an amalgam of the two. An unsentimental coming-of-age story about two teenage girls growing up in Cronulla in the 1970s, it is by turns funny, unflinching, disturbing and uplifting.
In adapting the story for television all these years later, producers John Edwards and Imogen Banks have made some smart decisions. Chief among them is creating significant roles for the adults, allowing the kind of multi-generational storytelling that worked so well in Tangle, which Edwards and Banks also produced. It allows for a broader examination of the social changes taking place in the '70s, particularly regarding the role of women.
Tonight's episode sets the scene in an unhurried fashion, introducing us to the two protagonists, Debbie and Sue, as well as their families, peers and school environment.
Sue's parents (played by Dan Wyllie and Susie Porter) are permissive and free-spirited, while Debbie's (Claudia Karvan and Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, both playing wonderfully against type) are uptight and locked in a somewhat loveless marriage.
The contrast between the two families is established with some fairly obvious but nonetheless amusing juxtapositions.
Similarly there's some fairly heavy-handed symbolism at play in establishing the dynamics within the families. In one scene, Karvan's character reads Madame Bovary in bed while her husband masturbates in the en suite. It's not exactly subtle but, hey. She's reading Madame Bovary. He's wanking in the bathroom. We're not talking Home and Away here.
Ultimately, at the heart of this story remains the two teenage girls - their friendship and the tensions that arise when their desire to conform collides with their fierce sense of independence. Ashleigh Cummings as Debbie, and Brenna Harding as Sue, are both superb - vivacious, intelligent and utterly natural.
The period setting is rendered faithfully but nicely underplayed. The writing is excellent - true to the spirit of the book but rendered with a contemporary sensibility. Nothing is forced and the whole thing unfolds at a languid pace rare for commercial television.
The Undateables, ABC2, 8.30pm
Richard is looking for love, so he enlists the help of a dating agency. But truth is, he won't be an easy sell. He has Asperger's, which makes him worryingly set in his ways. Then there's Luke, 23, a comedian whose shyness stems partly from his Tourette's, and diminutive Penny, who has brittle bones but is optimistic ahead of her first date.
In the first instalment of a three-part series, we follow these characters in their search for love, a goal that is elusive at the best of times, let alone in an age when people are seen as commodities.
Gruen Sweat, ABC1, 8.30pm
Gruen Sweat is taped shortly before it airs, so no preview disc was available for tonight's fourth and final episode (Gruen Planetreturns next week). It's a good bet, however, that it will be as enjoyable and informative as the previous three.
Indeed, Gruen has been fun and informative since 2008, when it first started pulling back the curtain on the ad industry. Of its various incarnations, Gruen Sweat is arguably the best, perfectly nailing the zeitgeist as it explores the nexus between sport and the hard sell.
It's a nice irony that a series of shows about branding has itself grown into such a popular brand.
Class of … Ten, 9.30pm
Based on a Swedish format, Class Of … follows 15 students at Bradfield Secondary College as they approach the HSC. These aren't just any teenagers, mind, but students overcoming adversity in one form or another, whether it's bullying, family breakdown or economic hardship. As the 10-part series opens, the students are in year 11. ''This is my third crack at year 11,'' says one. ''No other school would take me,'' says another. ''Bradfield is my last chance at getting my HSC,'' says a third.
Narrator Richard Roxburgh explains that the school takes an unorthodox, flexible approach that has delivered tremendous results for 18 years.
This is a touching, well-crafted documentary series about teenage underdogs. But it's about the teachers in the NSW public education system, too. In a world where footy players and nightclub owners are royalty, our teachers are criminally undervalued. Let's hope this helps.
White Heat, UKTV, 8.30pm
An intriguing start to a six-part British drama series in which a group of former housemates from the swinging '60s are brought back together by a death in the present day (though with most of the action taking place in the past). The housemates were originally assembled by Jack (Sam Claflin), an anti-establishment son of the establishment, as a kind of social experiment involving race, class, gender and, he hopes, loads of sex. Also starring Claire Foy, Lindsay Duncan and Jeremy Northam.
Bering Sea Gold, Discovery, 8.30pm
For thousands of years Alaskan glaciers pushed gold-rich sediments out into what is now the Bering Sea. Today, a hardy breed of prospectors don wetsuits and plunge in to the icy waters of Nome Harbour, using great big vacuum hoses to suck up gold-bearing mud and sand from the sea floor. These are small-time operations, with most of the dredges being crewed by just two to six people, including the divers, who spend hours at a time under the surface with warm water being piped into their wetsuits from above. It's dangerous work, of course, but many of the prospectors are desperate - one of them has a $180,000 hospital bill for treatment for a bad leg infection. It's not as exciting as Deadliest Catch (a new season of which begins at 7.30pm), but it's more interesting than Gold Rush Alaska.
The Children of Diyarbakir (2009) SBS Two, 9.30pm
Turkey, mid-1990s. Gulistan is 10, her brother, Firat, a bit younger. Too young, both of them, to deal with the horror of seeing their father (a journalist) and mother murdered by secret paramilitary police. In some countries, journalists are made redundant, with a payout; in others, they are simply exterminated. Such things actually happen nearly every day around the world and the people who orchestrate the killings have little compunction or feeling for the ''collateral damage''. Gulistan and Firat fall into the care of an aunt who also disappears in suspicious circumstances, leaving the youngsters to survive as best they can on the particularly mean streets of Diyarbakir.
The World (2004) SBS Two, 11.25pm
You may have seen glimpses of The World, a 46-hectare theme park on the outskirts of Beijing, on Foreign Correspondent. The venue boasts small-scale replicas of some of the world's most famous buildings: the pyramids of Giza, the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Blues Point Tower, London Bridge, Statue of Liberty, Gothic and Renaissance castles, Copenhagen's Little Mermaid statue, Venus de Milo, Michelangelo's David - but not yet the infamous turds on a stick at Kings Cross. It's a domain of illusion, facsimile and envy, but it's also a place where real people live and work. How does their reality stream into an artificial landscape? The film's sense of austerity is somewhat numbing but that doesn't mean its characters are stultified or lacking in passion. Is this the world as a globalised entity or an amusement park taking on a life of its own the way Michael Crichton's renegade robots did in Westworld (1973)? Realism versus irony - always an engaging spectator sport.
Cat People (1942) ABC1, 1.15am (Thu)
Val Lewton was an innovator of the horror genre. His career at RKO began with this little number about a woman named Irena who can transmogrify herself into a panther when sexually aroused. Will she make a fortune as the face of a new brand of bourbon or be snapped up by the Penrith Panthers to head their cheerleading troupe?
People start crying ''What's new, pussycat!?'' when, one after another, Irena's suitors turn up dead with nasty scratches on their corpses. Paul Schrader's 1982 remake was a gaudy affair, more lycra than lycanthropy.