The second season of the ABC's horticultural variant of Grand Designs opens outside Coffs Harbour, where Sydney tree changers Nicola and Mark want to import industrial design – concrete, brick and steel punctuating nature – to their three-acre sub-tropical "sanctuary". Host Michael McCoy, himself a landscape designer, is an encouraging presence, drawing out philosophies and plans much like a professional talking to prospective clients.
The formula of broad discussion, digital rendering, and budget discussion is wholly familiar, although perhaps there's more to be learnt from revelations such as how the couple, through research of the actual cost of retaining walls made from concrete waste, were able to cut their budget from $400,000 to $120,000. Manufacturing tension out of a possible serious industrial accident when machinery is working on a steep slope feels exploitative, but the half-hour episode is on better ground when it documents the broader clash between brute force methods and exacting outcomes.
Dream Gardens is part of the lifestyle programming push that former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie brought to the ABC before her tumultuous sacking, and by virtue of its modest scale and compact brief the series works better than some of the similar shows that have made it to air over the past 18months.
ABC Comedy, 8.40pm
Broadly described as The Inbetweeners in ancient Rome, Plebs is a deliberately anachronistic comedy about a group of ancient Romans who go through their days giving it some lip in the manner of modern-day Brits. "This map is a total dickhead," declares Jason Brindisi (Jonathan Pointing) as a 23BC trip to Tuscany to purchase wine alongside Marcus Gallo (Tom Rosenthal) and their slave Grumio (Ryan Sampson) gets off to an awkward start, before references to shagging and hotties leads into a lamentation about the extortionate cost of extra collision coverage (for carts).
The lead trio are British sitcom outlines transposed to the time of Augustus, with Marcus as the ambitious worrywart, Jason the lad looking to live it up, and Grumio the phlegmatic idiot. In this episode, the first of the fifth season, a problem with a pig threatens to derail a promising business deal, but if you're getting a Blackadder vibe you should expect more than a touch of Carry on Cleo. There's no veiled Brexit commentary on this show, just a mix-up between truffles and badger poop.