What's on TV: Wednesday, 19 September

Hard Quiz

ABC, 8pm

Season three of the quiz show where the contestants try to prove that their field of expertise is more than just a few facts they throw around at a barbecue, returns with a bang-up episode. Host Tom Gleeson, whose long face, mocking smile, and contained tones are pitched a few telling notes above most of his question-asking contemporaries, makes the banter matter with David, a disability consultant with impaired vision whose subject is the human eye, and the show skips along from there. "What is it about bands that sound like other bands that you like?" Gleeson asks Strokes fan and artist Kate, while lawyer Ross has a lot of optimism about what Elon Musk might accomplish.

Hard Quiz.

The structure keeps everyone involved and this is a great example of a familiar format being the Trojan horse for a whole lot more. CM

Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell

ABC, 8.30pm

Given that they've recently axed both The Checkout and Tonightly, it's a surprise Shaun Micallef has been called back to the ABC for another season of Mad as Hell. The national broadcaster has shown a real knack for cancelling valuable programs this year. There's been no preview made available of the return episode, which is kind of fitting since this comic news recap seems to spring fully formed from the host's inimitable psyche. CM

9-1-1

Seven, 8.30pm

Here is the counter-intuitive solution to the problem of too many American network TV shows being procedurals about either police officers, fire fighters, or paramedics: a procedural that combines police officers, fire fighters, and paramedics. It's always a busy day for these Los Angeles first responders, who are sent to work by Connie Britton's dispatcher, and frankly a majority of the appeal for this show is how bonkers the plot lines are. This episode starts with a widowed domestic abuser being felled by his wife's memory and a tree he's trying to blow up, and it doesn't slow down.

This US success comes from the powerhouse team of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, but it doesn't have the lurid visual aesthetic that so often roils Murphy's creations. There is social commentary, including an ongoing storyline about an African-American husband and wife with children trying to come to terms with the latter's decision to come out as gay, but like everything on this non-stop show it's wedged in between a CSI-style whodunit, coping with the stress melodrama, and screw loose twists. The cast includes skilled hands such as Peter Krause and Angela Bassett, but they're essentially putting a smooth finish on what is a florid and full-on mess. CM

Most Viewed in Entertainment