Jack Irish: Dead Point, Fox, with Guy Pearce, Barry Humphries PREVIEW

Guy Pearce returns for Jack Irish’s latest telemovie, Dead Point

Rating: ★★★★

Fox: starts Monday, 8 December, 9pm

Story: Jack Irish is a part-time lawyer and finder of people who’d rather remain lost.  When a high profile judge, Justice Loder, commissions him to locate a mysterious red book, Jack is thrown into a world of sexy club owners, drug dealers, bisexual blackmailers and unhinged killers.

THIS IS THE THIRD of the Aussie TV movies based on author Peter Temple’s excellent novels. Guy Pearce returns as the bedraggled former criminal lawyer turned private eye and debt collector, with

The case blows up in Jack’s face

Barry Humphries guesting this time round as Justice Loder.

Any series lucky enough to have a such an array of talent involved must be appointment viewing, and this doesn’t disappoint. It’s hard-hitting and dark, and in Pearce – with films as diverse as The Rover, Iron Man 3 and Animal Kingdom on his CV – it’s got a terrifically charismatic lead star.

It starts disconcertingly to the song Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, also the soundtrack to Peaky Blinders, recently concluded on BBC2. However, this is a world away from 1930s Birmingham.

Barry Humphries as Judge Loder

It begins with a seafront drug raid at a container port that goes wrong, with a suspect racing out of the scene in a Porsche.

Jack Irish gets pulled into the yarn when Justice Colin Loder – Barry Humphries – asks him to track

Kat Stewart as Ros

down a red leather-bound photo album containing compromising pictures.

Irish is a maudlin figure, just over a massive drinking binge following the murder of his wife, Isabel, by a former client. A one-time lawyer, he’s given up on criminal law and now tracks down missing people. He often ends up face down in an alley after chasing a potential lead.

It’s a character-rich drama, from the bar-flies at Jack’s favourite watering hole, The Prince of Prussia, to the radio talk-show host Jack is romancing. Meanwhile, there’s a juicy story of wrongdoing in high places that drives the plot.

Cast: Guy Pearce Jack Irish, Marta Dusseldorp Linda Hillier, Aaron Pedersen Cam Delroy, Roy Billing Harry Strang, Shane Jacobson as Barry Tregear, Barry Humphries Justice Loder, Kat Stewart Ros

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The Code, BBC4, Dan Spielman, Ashley Zukerman, Lucy Lawless PREVIEW

Jesse Banks (ASHLEY ZUCKERMAN) The Code
Jesse’s hacking skills open up a world of danger in The Code. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC4: starts Saturday, 11 October, 9pm

Story: Australian political thriller set in the heart of government. Reporter Ned Banks is alerted to a strange accident involving a couple of Aboriginal teenagers. Unwittingly getting his computer genius brother involved, Ned stumbles on a national conspiracy.

SATURDAY NIGHTS on BBC4 have become a vicarious getaway for crime fans in the last few years. Sweden, Denmark, Italy and even Belgium have all been on the itinerary, but this weekend it’s Australia’s turn with a new six-part thriller.

Which is unusual. Oz has not offered a whole lot on the crime front. There’s been Wentworth Prison, a descendant of the prison soap of Prisoner: Cell Block H. Guy Pearce turned up in 2012’s pretty decent Jack Irish drama, which was based on the novels of Peter Temple. And then there was the very average Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries around the same time.

Sophie Walsh (CHELSIE PRESTON CRAYFORD), Randall Keats (ADEN YOUNG) The Code
Stirring trouble – Sophie and Randall

The Code is a change of gear from all of these, and from the Swedish period whodunit Crimes of Passion, which has just ended. It’s a conspiracy thriller with techno and political themes.

Government leak gone wrong

It starts in a traditional way for the genre, with a journalist stumbling onto a huge story by accident. Ned Banks is leaked a dossier by government spin doctors that is designed to destroy a minister’s career.

However, in the envelop containing photos showing him getting into a scuffle after groping a woman is also a reference to ‘Lindara’, where two Aboriginal teens on a joyride have run into serious trouble. Clarence is found by teacher Alex covered in blood, apparently unable to account for what happened to his girlfriend or the car he was driving.

With Alex’s help, Ned – who is assisted by his brother Jesse, a hacker and Asberger’s sufferer – soon uncovers a video that suggests the teenager’s accident had more sinister causes. When his internet newspaper publishes the video, some outside agency causes the whole operation to crash and disappear off the web.

The Code is pacey and looks great

The setting, switching from government HQ in Canberra to remote Lindara, should easily satisfy the

Ned Banks (DAN SPIELMAN) The Code
Poking his nose in – reporter Ned

Saturday night BBC4 crowd’s wanderlust, and the story is a good mesh of political cynicism and Big Brother menace.

Ned’s disobedient pain of a brother is initially annoying, but comes to fill a vital role in the story. The narrative balances several threads with pace, from the Alex’s story in Lindara, to Jesse and Ned’s increasingly desperate attempts to avoid danger, to the political shenanigans.

It’s not in the same league as more haunting dramas, such as Edge of Darkness, but The Code shifts at a sharp pace and the cinematography is superb.

Cast: Dan Spielman Ned Banks, Ashley Zukerman Jesse Banks, Adele Perovic Hani Parande, Adam Garcia Perry Benson, Chelsie Preston Crayford Sophie Walsh, Paul Tassone Andy King,
Dan Wyllie Lyndon Joyce, Lucy Lawless Alex Wisham

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Wentworth Prison, Channel 5, with Danielle Cormack, Catherine McClements, Nicole da Silva PREVIEW

EP1 NO PLACE LIKE HOME BEA IS ARRESTED IMAGE PROVIDED BY CHANNEL 5
Bea is arrested in Wentworth Prison. Pics: C5

Rating: ★★★½

Channel 5: starts Wednesday, 28 August, 10pm

Story: Bea Smith arrives at Wentworth Prison on remand, charged with the attempted murder of her husband.

YOU’D HAVE TO try really hard to muck up a prison series. All those desperate people caged together is drama under a magnifying glass with the sun beating down.

One of the best in recent years was Oz, the HBO series from the late 90s that launched the channel’s output of groundbreaking shows. More recently Prison Break was a hit for Fox TV.

But the mamma of the genre is undoubtedly Prisoner: Cell Block H (Prisoner in its native Australia), the women’s jail series that became something of a cult in the UK. Now Foxtel, an offshoot of Fox, has ‘reimagined’ the series as Wentworth Prison, featuring new and original characters from the old show, which ran from 1979 to 1986.

EP1 NO PLACE LIKE HOME FRANKIE STAMPS HER AUTHORITY IMAGE PROVIDED BY CHANNEL 5
Leader of the pack – Franky

Sex, drugs, strip searches and a riot at Wentworth

And packed to the bars with dramatic conflict it certainly is. We’re introduced to life inside in the company of Bea Smith, who arrives on remand traumatised by events leading to her being charged with the attempted murder of her husband.

EP1 NO PLACE LIKE HOME JACS TAKES ON FRANKIE IMAGE PROVIDED BY CHANNEL 5
The riot sees Franky challenge Jacs (left)

Before she is even out of the prison van she has seen another prisoner give a guard a blowjob in exchange for a ciggie. But Bea’s trauma is really just beginning.

She stumbles on a couple of inmates making love in her cell, is forced to courier drugs into the prison, stripped searched, and then caught up in a prison riot. And that is just the first episode – with a further blood-soaked twist coming as a cliffhanger.

Rivals Franky and Jacs

Its selling point is that Wentworth Prison is more extreme than Cell Block H, with torture and murder also

EP1 NO PLACE LIKE HOME BEA SUFFERS AT THE HANDS OF HUSBAND HARRY IMAGE PROVIDED BY CHANNEL 5
Bea’s backstory – at the hands of abusive husband Harry

thrown in. Bea is initially a piece of meat thrown between rival gang leaders Franky, who is beautiful, charismatic and scary, and Jacs, who is older, domineering and scary.

But the violence is leavened by flashbacks exploring an inmate’s story in each episode. And then there is also the prison politics, with governor Meg Jackson clashing with her soft-hearted deputy Vera Bennett.

Wentworth Prison has intriguing characters and plenty of dramatic possibilities, to say nothing of the tension and edgy atmosphere. It’s already been recommissioned for a second series in Australia, and could be in for a long, eventful stretch on Channel 5.

Cast: Danielle Cormack Bea Smith, Catherine McClements Meg Jackson, Nicole da Silva Francesca Doyle, Kris McQuade Jacqueline Holt, Leeanna Walsman Erica Davidson, Kate Atkinson Vera Bennett, Celia Ireland Elizabeth Birdsworth, Shareena Clanton DoreenAnderson, Aaron Jeffrey MatthewFletcher, Robbie Magasiva Will Jackson, Jake Ryan  Harry Smith, Georgia Flood Debbie Smith

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