The formula for this entertaining LA police action drama may be tried and true, but there is more to the personal storylines that offset the crimes than the usual unresolved sexual tension or the work-life balance juggle. One such impactful moment takes place outside of business hours for star sergeant Hondo (Shemar Moore). His morning-after conversation with a hot district attorney is more about black archetypes in “today’s America” than commitment phobias. -BM

TUESDAY, February 4

Great Australian Railway Journeys

SBS, 7.35pm

Michael Portillo fronts Great Australian Railway Journeys on SBS.

Michael Portillo fronts Great Australian Railway Journeys on SBS.

Fronted by former English Conservative politician and government minister turned steam train broadcaster Michael Portillo, this BBC series offers a distinctly British view of our “spectacular continent”. With Portillo as guide, that means a thorough examination of railway history, strikingly shot landscapes, and what outsiders perceive as local colour – yes, a baby kangaroo is fed, the Great Barrier Reef feted, and our Indigenous history and traditions noted. Nothing is as loud as an engine’s whistle, but if trains are your thing then this episode’s journey from Port Augusta to Darwin on the Ghan makes it worth tolerating the diversions along the way. -CM

WEDNESDAY, February 5

Hard Quiz

ABC, 8pm

Tom Gleeson is back as promised on Hard Quiz.

Tom Gleeson is back as promised on Hard Quiz.

Who knew the Gold Logie could accomplish good? Having promised he would rescind his announced departure from the ABC’s quip-laced quiz show if he picked up the award, host Tom Gleeson happily returns for the fifth season of Hard Quiz. Did the network have a shortlist of suitable replacements that sat in the sweet spot between jocular and misanthropic? At this point it’s hard to imagine Gleeson being matched, even if the first few minutes of this new episode strain a little as he cheerfully mocks the four contestants and their chosen areas of expertise. Eventually he hits pay dirt with Xanadu devotee Brigid. There’s a certain level of masochistic familiarity in appearing on Hard Quiz which is now baked into the show, although part of the viewing pleasure is that even if you took away Gleeson’s sardonic queries the format still neatly works. And congrats to Lady Gaga stan Vinny, who manages to get a dig or two in at Gleeson. -CM

Doctor Doctor

Nine*, 9pm

Kate Jenkinson joins Doctor Doctor as new hospital registrar Tara.

Kate Jenkinson joins Doctor Doctor as new hospital registrar Tara.

For a scripted Australian series to get season four on a main free to air network, not a digital sideshow, is no small achievement. In the case of Doctor Doctor, the fish out of water melodrama about an arrogant medico exiled to live and work in the small country town where his family resides, it’s meant a balancing act between homespun idiosyncrasies, romantic intrigue, and setbacks that need to be summited by Rodger Corser’s Hugh Knight. If season three managed to make him a single father – Corser is very good at baby monologues – this new episode finds him cock-a-hoop at a business deal on his daughter’s first birthday. Naturally, it doesn’t work out – living in a town named Whyhope does suggest a certain pessimism – and there is some resulting kerfuffle for Hugh, which as ever clears more quickly than you would imagine possible. The conducive touch of Doctor Doctor remains its strength, and with Miranda Tapsell already part of the supporting cast the ranks of those who can spar with Hugh expands with the arrival of Kate Jenkinson’s new hospital registrar Tara. “Get over it, dipshit,” are her first words to him. Sounds about right. -CM

Black Comedy

ABC, Wednesday, 9pm

Black Comedy is back for a final season.

Black Comedy is back for a final season.

Kicking off the fourth and final season of this sketch show about black life in Australia with a rapacious tooth fairy who’s just a little short on coins, Black Comedy continues to profit from conventions and clichés that the Indigenous writers and performers can upend for seditious laughs. The pieces moves between loving send-ups of relatives and community members to dissections of burdensome stereotypes, and assurance has made for more dexterous and playful material. Visual homages, notably a thriller about a menacing Indigenous Support Centre at a university, also ring true to their genre. Veteran cast members Nakkiah Lui (who’s now also directing) and Aaron Fa’Aoso return alongside newcomers, with a strong hit-to-miss ratio in this episode. Watch for the punchline about a famous Australian comic in the sketch about an uptight black activist at a party – it’s scalding. -CM

THURSDAY, February 6

Ambulance Australia

Ten, 7.30pm

Ambulance Australia visits Brisbane.

Ambulance Australia visits Brisbane.

Twenty seconds into the new season of this observational documentary series and it’s a matter of life and death: a girl has called Brisbane’s triple 0 because her grandfather has fallen over and can no longer speak. The operator’s questions about his condition are heard over paramedics racing to the scene, although their progress is unexpectedly interrupted. Situation change on the fly on Ambulance Australia, which is assembled with the tempo of a thriller and keyed to the matter-of-fact professionalism of those trying to make a difference. As stories are interwoven the complexity increases and moments of insight appear. It’s gripping, unadorned viewing. -CM

The Little Drummer Girl

SBS, 7.30pm

Florence Pugh stars in The Little Drummer Girl.

Florence Pugh stars in The Little Drummer Girl.

Now this is a great pick-up. First aired here via Foxtel, this beguiling six-part adaptation of John le Carre’s 1983 spy novel about an Israeli operation to penetrate a Palestinian terror cell is immersed in subterfuge, performance, and the desire those qualities create. Leading Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden) directs, with marvellously inventive technique, a cast that includes Little Women star Florence Pugh, as an English actor steered into being an infiltrator, Alexander Skarsgard as her conflicted Israeli handler, and Michael Shannon as their spymaster. It’s a distinct, telling take on the espionage thriller. -CM

FRIDAY, February 7

Gardening Australia

ABC, 7.30pm

Costa Georgiadis's passion shines through on Gardening Australia, which enters 31st year.

Costa Georgiadis’s passion shines through on Gardening Australia, which enters 31st year.

There is a whole world of gardening out there that non-gardeners have no clue about. It’s a lush, green world where everything moves at a slower, friendlier pace, and where the best place to be on a Friday night is in front of the telly so that Costa Georgiadis and his team of green thumbs can take your hand and lead you gently around the various shrubberies of the nation. Costa’s Gold Logie nomination last year proved what a passionate and devoted audience GA has, and even for those uninitiated into the ways of the bush, it’s easy to see how one can become lost in the weeds. It’s not just Costa’s magnificent beard that pulls in the punters, although that’s definitely an attraction: it’s the way the presenters on this show are so clearly invested, not in showing off for the camera, but in sharing the joy of gardening. It’s a joy that shows no signs of flagging as the show enters its 31st season. -BP

SATURDAY, February 8

Doc Martin

ABC, 7.30pm

Career over? Let's hope not as Doc Martin enters ninth season.

Career over? Let’s hope not as Doc Martin enters ninth season.

Doc Martin, the uptight country GP with a phobia of blood and a strong dislike of his patients, has reached his ninth season of tending to the eccentrics of Port Wenn. This is a tribute to the adoration the masses have for the doc: the series seemed to have reached its conclusion years ago, but demand has kept it coming back, much to the delight of fans of gentle rural whimsy blended with the odd medical emergency. Martin Clunes made his name as a sexist boor on Men Behaving Badly, but cemented his legacy with the polar opposite in Martin Ellingham, a brilliant physician who saves lives on the regular despite having the worst bedside manner in history. As season nine begins, Martin is facing career oblivion, as the medical board takes a long hard look at his less-than-warm approach to patient care. There’s that pesky fear of blood, too, which keeps rearing its head and creating doubt about the Doc’s competence. Don’t worry though: this is episode one, he probably won’t get struck off just yet. -BP

Eurovision: Australia Decides

SBS, 8.30pm

Eurovision aspirants Tania Doko, Ella Hooper and Alfie Arcuri.

Eurovision aspirants Tania Doko, Ella Hooper and Alfie Arcuri.Credit:AAP

Those who have noted, not without geographical justification, that Australia is not in Europe, have been waved away as killjoys by proponents of this country’s deep dive into the waters of the world’s premiere celebration of kitsch. Those who have noted that the seriousness with which Australia now takes a competition which used to be treated as a bit of silly fun has sucked all the joy out of the experience have likewise failed to make a dent in the patriotic fervour surrounding the annual entry. Here we see the aspirants for the Australian entry in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest compete for their big chance. There’s a great array of talent on show, from Casey Donovan to Vanessa Amorosi to Mitch Tambo to someone who was on Australia’s Got Talent apparently. If you care, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. If you yearn for the days when the whole point of Eurovision was deciding whether the Latvians dressed as gnomes or the ice-skating Bulgarian was more ludicrous, it’ll all be a bit sad. -BP

SUNDAY, February 9

Dancing with the Stars

Ten, 7.30pm

Singing sensation Dami Im and AFL superstar Travis Cloke are on Dancing With The Stars in 2020.

Singing sensation Dami Im and AFL superstar Travis Cloke are on Dancing With The Stars in 2020.

DWTS has become quite a respectable career move these days, to the point where some of the “stars” are, actually, stars. This year we get to see the wonderful Claudia Karvan, the marvellous Celia Pacquola, the quite-lovely Ed Kavalee and that jerk from Married At First Sight strut their stuff, among others. In the hands of Grant Denyer and Amanda Keller it’s all quite warm and cosy, and thankfully never taken too seriously. Strangely for shows of this kind, the judges – relentless bitchy Craig Revel Horwood, bland Sharna Burgess and Tristan “Everything is just fantastic!” McManus – are a mere sideshow: the jolly caperings of the mostly-hopeless dancers are the point. -BP

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