Free to air highlights July 10-16: Hard life of a comedy legend

ABOVE: Tom Gleeson is back to throw insults - and a few questions - at contestants in a new series of Hard Quiz. BELOW: Doctors at work in an episode of Emergency

ABOVE: Tom Gleeson is back to throw insults - and a few questions - at contestants in a new series of Hard Quiz. BELOW: Doctors at work in an episode of Emergency

I AM RICHARD PRYOR

12pm, Sunday, SBSTwo

This documentary on Richard Pryor came out just last year and mines some familiar territory.

Pryor's life - with its heavy drug use, sleeping around and torrid childhood - is undoubtedly appealing to documentary film-makers.

So on that score, if you knew the background of Pryor (mother was a prostitute, father was a pimp, grew up in a brothel) then there might not be much new to you.

Something that might be new to you is a focus on his early days of doing "white bread" comedy; humour that was safe for a black man to do in front of white audience. Think Bill Cosby.

There are snippets of his early gigs on TV shows like The Ed Sullivan Show and he looks really awkward and uncomfortable - and I don't think it's stage fright.

He couldn't tell the truth of his background, so he had to make up a family history so as to appease the audiences and keep getting booked on those shows.

But times started to change, with the assassination of Martin Luther King and a growing focus on the racial divide in the United States, and Pryor realised he could no longer play that game - he had to be true to himself.

So he changed his comedy style to the more edgy and confronting comic we remember, one who blazed a new trail.

Sure, Pryor's drug use and injuries are a part of I Am Richard Pryor, but it's the focus on the early period of his comedy career that is the most riveting part of this documentary.

HARD QUIZ

8pm, Wednesday, ABC

This show is like the old Mastermind series, where contestants got quizzed on their chosen field of interest - but with more comedy.

In this episode Spongebob Squarepants, dingoes, New Yorker cartoons and Rafael Nadal are the four niche subjects chosen by contestants.

What makes Hard Quiz a cut or two above Mastermind is the comedic work of host Tom Gleeson. While he has developed a bit of an image a host prone to delivering insults at contestants, he never crosses the line into nastiness.

It helps that the contestants know what they're getting themselves into, and fortunately few of them try to match comedic wits with Gleeson.

EMERGENCY

8.30pm, Wednesday, Nine

If you watch medical dramas set in hospital emergency wards the pace always seems to be frenetic, with people running around or urgently yelling "stat!" , whatever that means.

But that fast-paced ER isn't what you'll see in Emergency; instead what you get is calm, collected medical staff tending to their patients and getting them treated.

There are even scenes of doctors waiting patiently for their turn to use the CT scanner.

It all makes sense really. A hospital ER sees patients in all sorts of dire straits, looking for urgent treatment. An overwhelming sense of panic for 12 hours straight from doctors and nurses isn't really going to be the best approach to ensuring those patients stay alive.

That doesn't mean there's no drama here. In this episode an Aussie rules player is at risk of bleeding to death after a footy injury, a pregnant woman in a car accident is worried something may have happened to her baby, and a man has turned up with six gunshot wounds.

Check it out, stat!

REVIEWS: GLEN HUMPHRIES

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