• Maddie Baillio stars as Tracy Turnblad on 'Hairspray Live!' (NBC)Source: NBC
SBS TV Channel Manager Ben Nguyen gives his weekly “what to watch” picks
By
Ben Nguyen

5 Dec 2016 - 2:29 PM  UPDATED 6 Dec 2016 - 5:07 PM

On the citizenship test presented to every potential new Australian, between the grilling on “The Don’s” batting averages, is a question on seasonal entertainment options that all recent arrivals must come to terms with in order to fully integrate with our way of life: why is summer TV so bad?

Due to the historic alchemy of a two-month anti-competitive collusion by the commercial triopoly, office Christmas parties, capitalism’s co-option of religious festivities and sunshine - all Australians rest safe in the knowledge that once the calendar reaches December there will be nothing worth watching.

Yet all of us networks are pulling out the spit and polish in order to convince you that the week ahead is not entirely devoid of event television.

There is of course hours of that perennial summer ball thwacking that provides a justification for hours of couch-sitting beer drinking (this week it’s men on Nine, women on Ten).

Seven have discovered another excuse to get the Home and Away cast on an Awards ceremony stage, joined possibly by a hopefully sober Mel Gibson.

Nine have even somehow decided that a women’s underwear catalogue launch is worthy of an hour of primetime rather than being buried alongside the other mid-morning infomercials.

And on SBS we’re bewildering the pundits with our own attempt at showbiz razzmatazz: Hairspray Live! (Saturday 7:30pm).

That’s right, John Waters’ camp indie film tribute to 1960s outsider teens and civil rights starring Ricki Lake that was turned into a Broadway musical starring gravelly voiced Harvey Fierstein that was turned into a Hollywood movie starring John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer is being turned into a filmed live extravaganza beamed directly (kinda) to your plasmas and LCDs.

The studded for your pleasure line-up sees Fierstein return to the Edna Turnblad role Travolta took over for the movie while fellow Broadway (and more) star Kristin Chenoweth steps in for the Pfeiffer role of Velma Von Tessle.

Martin Short is Wilbur Turnblad, Ariana Grande is Penny Pingleton and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson is Motormouth Maybelle, while newcomer Maddie Baillio takes the lead role of Tracy Turnblad.

Even SBS The Guide’s favourite street screamer Billy Eichner gets a role, with a cameo appearance mooted from original Tracys Ricki Lake and Marissa Jaret Winokur.

So why not invite friends and family, neighbours, work colleagues and that person who always serves you at the cafeteria over for one last hurrah before you forget that the rectangle in the corner is good for anything but video games and Netflix.

Outlander returns this week with its steamiest episode as Claire and Jamie consummate their marriage in The Wedding (Thursday 9:30pm - now airing weekly as double episodes).

And if you like steamy check out new Brazilian drama Magnifica 70 (It's one of the rare examples of a Brazilian drama on Australian TV) where a film censor falls in love with a porn actress (Thursday 11:45pm and all on SBS ON DEMAND).

Follow Ben on Twitter: @ben_syd

Hairspray Live! will have you tapping your toes in the privacy of your own home on Saturday 10 December at 7:30pm as the curtain raises on SBS.

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