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What’s on TV: Friday, October 16 to Thursday, October 22

The answer to both questions is probably yes but before you make up your mind you can take in this humble doco, which tells the story of how a new file type invented by a German PhD student in the 1990s nearly destroyed a major industry and gave birth to an entire new economy of file-sharing and digital entertainment.

The influence of that breakthrough on the way we live today has been monumental, but the story of just where the humble little file type came from is not all that well-known. Interesting stuff, if not for those bearing an allergy to nerdery.

This episode of Restoration Australia shows off Egan House in Inverell.

This episode of Restoration Australia shows off Egan House in Inverell.

​Saturday

Victoria

ABC, 7.30pm

Victoria hasn’t managed to generate the same zeitgeisty buzz as The Crown, which is a shame because the life of Queen Victoria is much more interesting than the faffing about of the family in the Palace today. This series is a proper historical saga as opposed to The Crown’s high-gloss soap. Jenna Coleman takes centre stage as the young and vivacious Victoria, miles away from the stern-faced matriarch of later in her life we’re more accustomed to. Coleman’s partnership with Tom Hughes as Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert is the heart of the show.

As Season 3 begins, the royal marriage is under a fair bit of strain, as is the Crown itself, with the revolutions of 1848 sweeping Europe. It all looks an absolute treat, the lavish costumes and opulent sets beautifully demonstrating how much fun TV is when it delves into more extravagant eras. It’s all high drama and heart-wrenching decisions and powerful passions boiling beneath corseted English reserve. For lovers of period pieces, it’s a treat.

Sunday

Restoration Australia

ABC, 7.40pm

Julia Hales, The Upside of Downs

Julia Hales, The Upside of DownsCredit:ABC

Ah, Restoration Australia: it’s a beautiful dream but can Australia ever truly be restored? Thankfully this show avoids disappointing us by taking it one house at a time. Australia is not as lush with stately homes as some other countries but architect-historian-host Stuart Harrison does an excellent job of seeking out historic shambles with owners who hope to return them to their former glory.

This ep shows off Egan House in Inverell, a distinguished pile that comes with an old convent and boys’ school attached. The property is rich with history and probably haunted by a decent-sized battalion of colonial ghosts. Harrison rocks up to meet the owners, hardware store owners who may not quite realise the size of their task. Restoring Egan House to not just liveability, but a fair representation of the magnificence of its past, seems a colossal job, and the owners slightly mad to have even considered it.

Monday

Great House Revival

SBS, 7.30pm

Irish architect Hugh Wallace’s dry sense of humour, lovely turn of phrase – and, of course, delicious accent – enliven this thoroughly entertaining series which returns tonight for a second season. The central conceit is that all over Ireland are derelict buildings – and people needing homes. So let’s restore the former, house the latter, and provide some jolly entertainment along the way. Although as the title suggests this is actually less about meticulous restoration than it is about revival – bringing the buildings back to life.

Tonight, that means a Georgian townhouse in central Dublin, where clearly real estate mania has been as rampant as in every other capital city in the Western world. Purists in historical architecture may end up hyperventilating but for the rest of us the great thing about starting with a house that’s essentially a pile of damp rubble is that the reinvention – and the final reveal – are all the more satisfying.

Say Yes to the Dress Australia

9Now

Frocks! Frocks! Frocks! If you consider marriage an archaic institution the only purpose of which is to enslave women; or believe that the sacred bond between a man and a women has devolved into a vulgar display of conspicuous consumption, well. Look away now. However if watching anxious/giggly/weepy/slightly bonkers young women try on a succession of lavish gowns for the approval or otherwise of their loved ones sounds like a whole lot of fun, then get on board.

This Australian version of the international franchise has a distinct and refreshing local flavour. And while the promos work hard to pump up the drama, in reality what we get is a showcase of good-hearted gals of all shapes, sizes and ages who can’t wait to spend their lives with the person of their dreams – just as soon as they’ve found the frock of their dreams.

Dateline: Deadly Trip of a Lifetime

SBS, 9.30pm

Most of us, most of the time, don’t give Uruguay a second thought but in this excellent two-part special that country gives us a lesson in what it means to be a good global citizen, and a decent human being. Made from lockdown in Melbourne with international co-producers, Deadly Trip of a Lifetime documents the ill-fated voyage of the Antarctic cruise ship Greg Mortimer, which set sail a few days after the WHO had declared a global pandemic – and in short order found itself a floating COVID factory.

It’s a compelling story, not only of the compassion and good sense with which the Australian and New Zealand passengers were treated but in the other, hidden tale of the ship’s crew – who fared far less well. The first episode screened last week and is available On Demand. This one works as a stand-alone but watching both together packs a real punch.

The Upside of Downs

ABC, 9.30pm

There are all kinds of good arguments for increasing diversity on our screens but here is one of the most compelling. There are questions that can only be asked, and issues that can only truly be illuminated, when you have skin in the game. That’s certainly the case here, where Julia Hales, a woman living with Down syndrome, explores the reality of life with Downs with a particular focus on the attitudes of the medical fraternity and the increasing sophistication of prenatal testing.

It’s one thing for a regular person to quiz doctors about the implications of screening and parents about why they made the decisions they did. That has value, but it’s quite a different experience to watch a confident, articulate woman with Downs asking those questions – calmly and without judgment. Not only is she a living, breathing contradiction to the often-dire prognosis from medical experts, the subtext to every gentle query is: do you think I should have been killed before I was born?

Wednesday

The Masked Singer USA

Ten, 8.30pm

If you love playing “Hey! It’s that guy!” then this is the show for you. There’s that guy from Community. That nutso girl from that talk show. That other girl from that band. And that guy from, you know, that other show, the reality thing. So that’s the panel. Then it’s time to guess who’s behind the masks. The good news is, as with our own version, the singing is actually pretty good, so even if you’re not into all the other palaver you’re still guaranteed an entertaining hour. This is every bit as bonkers as our version and everyone seems to be having a genuinely good time. Our costumes are better. But this one has an actual audience. It also – in among the obscurities – has some heavy-hitting talent. Past seasons have featured everyone from Donny Osmond and Dionne Warwick to Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle.

Thursday

The Bachelorette

Ten, 7.30pm

“My head hurts, I’ve been smiling so much!” So sayeth Elly in the opening episode of the new season of The Bachelorette – and she wasn’t alone in spending the evening grinning ear to ear. Of course, as this is The Bachelorette, it can’t all be fun, games and happy times and soon enough drama began stalking the mansion. But even there, it’s been encouraging to be reminded that blokes can be every bit as snarky, snipey, petty and downright hysterical as their female counterparts. The other enjoyable thing about this season is that, with two lovely ladies looking for love, we’re pelting through the dates. Tonight, the final rose ceremony.

Fargo

SBS, 9.30pm

When a new season of Fargo arrives you never quite know what to expect – except fun times. Whether it’s a downtrodden husband going feral or an alien visitation, the Fargo-verse is full of surprises. And gore. And unexpected gags. Over the years it’s also distinguished itself by its acute examination of human nature in extremis: the good, the bad, the sublime and the ridiculous. And it has always looked at those things through the prism of crime. This is the first time, though, that gangs have been front and centre – and how very Fargo to use gangs as a way to look at race, money and power.

Fargo is always a technically brilliant piece of work, too. The soundtrack is fabulous. The styling is gorgeous without being overpowering. The casting is genius (check out Irish dramatic actress Jessie Buckley playing a psychopathic nurse from Minnesota). And if you’re interested in the mechanics of the trade you’ll be in awe of the structure, the scaffolding, showrunner Noah Hawley and his team have put in place, the sleights of hand and the misdirects, that all work to both keep us entertained, and periodically whack us with some blinding insights.

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