Wednesday, October 7

Compelling drama: The Principal.FREE TO AIR

Caught on Dashcam, Seven, 7.30pm 

There’s voyeurism then there’s dashcam videos, a long-time internet favourite, particularly the Russian variety (they’ve been using dashcams for years, reportedly because insurance frauds are so rife there), which make up the bulk of this program. That’s right: brief videos from people’s in-car dashboard cameras (although there’s also a lot of mobile phone footage here) augmented by some truly awful ‘‘zany’’  voiceovers.  Caught on Dashcam should win an award for the least expensive series ever produced, if nothing else.

The Principal, SBS, 8.30pm 

SBS’s first original drama in years was created by producer Ian Collie (Rake), writers Rachael Turk and Kristen Dunphy (East West 101) and is directed by Kriv Stenders (Red Dog) – and its cast (Alex Dimitriades, Aden Young, Mirrah Foulkes among them) is equally impressive. Dimitriades is Matt Bashir, the new principal of the notoriously rough (fictional) Boxdale Boys’ High School in Sydney’s west, an ethnically diverse school where the staff are burnt out and cynical and the students not much better. But Bashir is determined to turn the place around, instantly ruffling feathers with his inspirational platitudes and determination to instil self-respect among the worst students. This is no Heartbreak High though; The Principal is a hybrid school/crime drama set in a post-9/11 high school, where multiculturalism and radicalisation are bigger concerns than peer pressure or schoolground bullying. Newcomers Rahel Romahn as troubled student Tarek Ahmad and Tyler De Nawi as his brother Karim are standouts among the young cast in this compelling new drama.

Celebrity Apprentice  Nine, 8.40pm 

It’s bad enough that the ‘‘celebrity’’ spin-off of The Apprentice bears little resemblance to the original’s premise, but the producers of this n series haven’t even concerned themselves much with the ‘‘celebrity’’ part – the line-up is, frankly, bizarre and even those who have only reality TV experience to draw on (which is most of them) seem unable to even conduct  faux-arguments very well. Unless the producers poke these ‘‘celebs’’ into some proper in-fighting soon, there’s so little reason to tune in, it’s actually embarrassing.Kylie Northover


The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies  (2014) Premiere Movies (pay TV), 8.30pm

The Battle of the Five Armies, one of the climactic events in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, is essentially a background event, a big picture clash seen from a distance as the individual protagonists are caught up in the Middle Earth clash for the vast treasure of the felled dragon Smaug. It took three pages in the book, but it lasts a good part of this 144-minute film, the final instalment of Peter Jackson’s dreary trilogy where the economy and insight of his previous Lord of the Rings series is replaced by excess and indulgence. While it’s nice that Orlando Bloom got paid work, bringing back his elven character Legolas was just one of many sloppy inventions that marked Jackson’s preference for his own legacy over the source material, and the perpetual usage of digital effects turns the picture into a dull fantasy that lacks the physicality and endeavour of Jackson’s initial Tolkien adaptations. One of the elements added by the filmmaker, foreshadowing his Lord of the Rings films, was the return of the Dark Lord Sauron, but by the end of this ham-fisted, repetitive blockbuster the only threatening force looming over these films is Peter Jackson himself, battering his own legacy.

Pineapple Express (2008) Ten, 10pm

In a stoner comedy you have to believe  the leads know how to get high and do everything associated with the fuzzed-out state: that is talk rubbish, hatch grand plans, flip out without warning, and get a bad case of the munchies. In that regard Seth Rogen, as amiable process server Dale Denton, and James Franco, as his slacker dealer Saul Silver, have all the bases covered in David Gordon Green’s Pineapple Express – fleeing to the woods at one point they even play leapfrog together. The film itself, one of many co-written by Rogen in the long period when no one would pay him to act, is actually more of an ’80s action adventure, albeit with a ludicrously warped sensibility. It has various criminal gangs, plus Rosie Perez as a corrupt cop, goons borrowed from the era of The Last Boy Scout and a massed battle for the finale. But it never surrenders to these impulses, remaining an improbable adventure between the mismatched Saul and Dale, with Danny McBride’s Red – one of his stream of overly confident American misfits – as their travelling companion. When the bullets stop flying they get breakfast together and laugh about their journey, bud(dies) forever.Craig Mathieson

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