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Tables turned with a surprise and disappointment

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 25, 2013

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I can't say that I'm a massive fan of travel programmes. Much nicer to be abroad that watch someone else droning on about how wonderful and enchanting it all is to, essentially, be paid for having a good time.

So I didn't have great expectations of Australia with Simon Reeve (BBC Two, Sunday). Luckily, this charming and interesting guide wasn't your average presenter.

Simon likes to get behind the tourist facade and discover more about the places he visits.

There is plenty to be found in Australia, a country 30 times the size of the UK. "If you think you know Australia, think again," he tells us.

It's not just a land of koalas, beaches and barbies. Here is a unique and fragile environment. There are hundreds of species here that exist nowhere else on earth. But Nature has a fine balancing act to perform.

Camels were introduced into the bush, but are now running wild, destroying trees and causing damage to the environment. In areas where the camel population has exploded, you will find no kangaroos, no emus and no reptiles.

The local farmers are suffering and many are forced to shoot the camels and just leave them where they fall.

One man has an answer – export them to countries that eat camel meat.

It's this kind of adventurous, entrepreneurial spirit which has helped to build Australia.

It's here that they are experimenting with tuna ranching – rounding up great shoals of them into a pen and fattening them up.

And it's also a country where they are still exploiting the gold rush in Kalgoorlie. A super pit produces 7% of the world's gold, alongside nickel and silver mines, but you can still go out with a metal detector and a spade at the weekend and find the odd nugget.

In Perth, where 11% of the population is British ex-pats, we met Steve. Once a Hull dustbin man, he left when local authority wage cuts reduced his take-home pay by £60 a week. In Australia he has enough money teaching people to drive super-trucks to have his own speedboat.

It is a land of contrasts, and Simon Reeve is good at finding the contradictions.

A massive winery produces wine on an industrial scale – 25m bottles of chardonnay and shiraz a year.

But the indigenous Aboriginal population suffer extreme poverty. A land of opportunity, but not for all.

While Australia with Simon Reeve was a pleasant surprise, Case Histories (BBC One, Sunday) was a big disappointment.

Like many others, I was impressed by the first series with Jason Isaacs on fine form as the brooding, world-weary private detective Jackson Brodie.

Kate Atkinson's stories are sharply written and the characters are interesting, whether it's Brodie, his smart assistant Deborah or DCI Louise Munroe who carries a torch for him.

The last series ended with Louise (Amanda Abbington) finally sharing a kiss with Brodie.

The first in the three episodes of this second series had him opening an invitation to her wedding.

In the intervening months, Brodie has been to New Zealand to see his daughter and become involved in kidnapping a young girl, thinking he was reuniting her with her mother when he was actually taking her away from her mum.

The plot for this feature-length episode was a particularly convoluted one involving a woman looking for her birth mother and a 35-year-old murder mystery.

Victoria Wood appeared as Tracy, ex-copper now working as a security guard who takes in a young girl when her prostitute mother is killed.

A lot of the spark has gone out of Case Histories and Jason Isaacs looked incredibly rough, never far from a drag on his cigarette or a glass of scotch.

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