What's on TV: Saturday, April 28

Dinosaur vs Whale

SBS, 7.30pm

Osamah Sami portrays a more nerdy version of himself in Ali’s Wedding.

The Brits have long been the masters of understated observational TV, but good lord this documentary walks a fine line between interesting and tedious. It's about the removal of Dippy the dinosaur from the entrance hall of London's Natural History Museum and the installation of his replacement – the 25-metre skeleton of a blue whale. Narrated by natural history god David Attenborough, this should be a slam dunk – dinosaurs! Hi-vis vests! Mandibles! – but it's half an hour too long and full of padding (I'm sorry, but if you are including exchanges where project manager Jen is talking about only owning one dress, you have room to cut). However, it does show the passion of the staff for their work – the museum's head of conservation Lorraine Cornish has spent nearly 38 years giving Dippy a regular dust, while Richard Sabin, the mammals principal curator and the man in charge of giving the blue whale a dynamic pose, is so excited about the whole project, he nearly cracks a smile or two. It's this natural British reservation that's the main undoing of Dinosaur vs Whale. While everyone is clearly thrilled with the mammoth task ahead of them, they are so schooled in the language of observational TV – deadpan delivery, short sentences – it could be mistaken for a mockumentary. LR

Contagion (2011)

7Flix, 9pm

Directed and shot with irresistible clarity and momentum by Stephen Soderbergh – who is as efficient as the deadly MEVI-1 virus which arrives in America via Gwyneth Paltrow's soon deceased patient zero. This apocalyptic drama matches the emotional toll felt by Beth's bewildered husband, Mitch (Matt Damon), with the breakdown of society as the virus spreads. People flee, nurses go on strike, and the police stop answering calls for help as the outbreak grows, while a blogger, Alex Krumweide (Jude Law), proves that it's still possible to profit from the end of the world. It's notable that the responders who meet the virus head-on are public servants and NGO staffers, including Kate Winslet's Epidemic Intelligence Services officer and Marion Cotillard's World Health Organisation expert. No one complains about the state infringing on people's personal rights when bodies litter the streets, and in some cases these women work themselves literally to death. CM

Ali's Wedding (2017)

Premiere Movies (pay TV), 8.30pm

Written by Osamah Sami and Andrew Knight, and based on the former's real life misadventures in Melbourne's northern suburbs, Ali's Wedding is a genuine crowd-pleaser. But the shorthand shouldn't detract from what it achieves: Jeffrey Walker's film is a comic broadside against racial division, a tender love story, an exchange between cultures, and a comedy of poor judgment grown to terrible proportions. Desperate to please his father, Muslim cleric Sheikh Mahdi (Don Hany), and satisfy heightened community expectation, Ali (Sami) fakes a brilliant entrance score for a medical degree at Melbourne University and starts to attend campus and even classes. At the same time he's trying to navigate a possible arranged marriage, steered by his mother, Zahra (Frances Duca), while surreptitiously falling in love with Dianne (Helana Sawires), a fellow Muslim and legitimate medical student. Set within Muslim homes and a mosque, the storytelling makes the setting reassuringly universal. CM


Saturday, BBC First, 9.30pm

This ill-conceived comedy-drama will come as a disappointment to fans of Stephen Mangan, Heather Graham, David Cross and pretty much anyone else involved in it. The main problem? Mangan plays a secret bigamist who keeps two unsuspecting families in two different parts of Bristol. The caddishness required to maintain such a situation robs Mangan of the rumpled charm that makes him such fun to watch in things like Episodes and Free Agents. Having his character weep every time he gets in the car to drive between families doesn't help. In any case, tonight Andrew and wife Denise (Jo Hartley) are going out to a restaurant with a couple of her friends, and Andrew is fretting that his other wife (Graham) will turn up at the same place with her own pals. Cue attempt after ridiculous attempt to contrive an excuse to leave. BN

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