Helen Razer

is a writer and broadcaster. She is The Saturday Paper’s television critic and gardening columnist.

By this author


Television October 06, 2018

Guthrie, Milne and ABC programming

The current chaotic state of the ABC cannot be blamed on a single high-ranking person. And nor can its woefully mundane programming. Instead, it’s the fault of the c-word – compromise.

Television September 08, 2018

‘Younger’

There is happily nothing to learn from Younger, the latest series from Sex and the City creator Darren Star. It is another enjoyable series about ‘void women’ and their glamorous material desires.

Comedy July 28, 2018

Hannah Gadsby’s ‘Nanette’

Hannah Gadsby’s show Nanette has been met with rave reviews. But can it deliver on what others promise for it?

Television June 30, 2018

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

As a portrayal of misogyny and violence against women, The Handmaid’s Tale ticks all the boxes. As a piece of empowering feminist storytelling, it couldn’t be more misguided.

Television June 09, 2018

‘The Americans’

While The Americans masterfully resurrects memories of Cold War anxieties, it also offers an unnerving lens on US politics as they are today.

Television May 12, 2018

‘Westworld’

The second season of Westworld continues the series’ Baudrillardian illusions of reality and fakery as its robots develop a class-consciousness rare on our screens.

Television March 24, 2018

Breakfast television’s no-news news

Where once viewers tuned in fondly to breakfast television, personality-driven dross and offensive opinions now make some wish the format – and its Cash Cow – would be put out to pasture.

Television February 23, 2018

‘The Good Place’

Kristen Bell and Ted Danson’s satirical comedy The Good Place portrays a middle-managed afterlife where inauthentic goodness makes for a kind of hell.

Gardening December 23, 2017

Pets in the garden

Sharing a garden with an animal companion can bring additional joy to the life outdoors. But thought must go into pet-friendly plantings.

Television November 11, 2017

ABC TV’s ‘Screen Time’

Where once the contrary but charming banter of David and Margaret was an authoritative guide to modern cinema, the ABC has replaced it with uninsightful postmodernism and lame jokes.

Television September 29, 2017

‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’

Larry David’s return as a cantankerous version of himself in a new series of Curb Your Enthusiasm is a chance to reflect on the roots of comedy and the discontent that produces it.

Gardening September 16, 2017

Cultivating native orchids

Intent on growing native orchids, the author finds the only club that she wants to have her as a member.

Television September 08, 2017

ABC TV’s ‘Get Krack!n’

With their new show Get Krack!n, Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney have expanded their satirical universe from food culture to the dumb decline of the knowledge class.

Television August 12, 2017

Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake: China Girl

Jane Campion’s latest foray into television, while featuring admirable performances, sees the writer–director stray too far from what she does best.

Television July 08, 2017

‘Catastrophe’

Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s sharp comedy Catastrophe gets to the truth of love and marriage, in all its strain and splendour.

Television June 10, 2017

The Return of ‘Twin Peaks’

As the latest Twin Peaks again pushes the boundaries of everyday morality, the viewer ponders its creator’s desire to illuminate the darkness in our souls.

Gardening May 20, 2017

Reviving a garden for winter

The cold of late autumn can make it difficult to tend neglected gardens, but a fortifying nip can get you out improving the soil and installing seedlings.

Television April 22, 2017

Big Little Lies

From the designer clothes to the covetable houses to the A-list cast, Big Little Lies is a quality potboiler. But beyond the gloss, the series explores deeper social issues in a refreshingly nuanced way.

Television March 18, 2017

Married at First Sight

You may not learn anything from the lab-coated matchmaking experts of Married at First Sight, but the show captures the reality of today’s dating culture.

Gardening December 24, 2016

Flowers for summer

Summer may not be the most agreeable season to toil in the garden, but a little bit of labour now can bring good results down the track.

Television October 29, 2016

ABC TV’s ‘Rosehaven’

In Rosehaven, Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola have delivered a comedy comparable to Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, with the wit to reflect on life’s disappointments without eschewing laughs.

Television October 01, 2016

Australia’s best TV drama, ‘Offspring’

At the pinnacle of Australian drama, Offspring presents likeable female leads who can be enjoyed free of moral qualification.

Television June 25, 2016

ABC TV’s ‘Cleverman’

Breaking from TV's tradition of explaining Indigenous causes, the ABC’s sci-fi drama Cleverman makes no attempt to heal or instruct.

Gardening June 04, 2016

El Niño, La Niña and flowering annuals

With the Bureau of Meteorology declaring El Niño over, the time is ripe for gardeners to replant.

Television May 21, 2016

ABC TV’s ‘Comedy Showroom’

The ABC’s sitcom incubator Comedy Showroom includes those who mistakenly believe comedy is a tool to fix the world’s problems or protect our freedoms.

Television April 16, 2016

AMC’s ‘Better Call Saul’

Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul offers the same luminous insights into society’s chinks as its predecessor.

Television February 27, 2016

Ascribing meaning to reality TV

Reality TV shows should be left as an enjoyable way to unwind, instead they’re treated as touchstones for debates that matter.

Television November 21, 2015

Aziz Ansari’s new TV series ‘Master of None’

Aziz Ansari’s smart and funny new show firmly focuses on the disappointment of commodities.

Television November 07, 2015

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina adapted for ‘The Beautiful Lie’

While the brilliance of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina may be muddied in this TV adaptation, The Beautiful Lie remains a pleasure.

Gardening October 31, 2015

Waterwise tips to beat this summer’s killer heat

With El Niño conditions on the way, gardeners wishing to defy the odds need to prioritise and get waterwise.

Television October 10, 2015

TV’s new prime-time soap opera ‘Empire’

Dressed to thrill, the family saga Empire sings from the same song sheet as the fabulously over-the-top prime-time dramas of the 1980s.

Television August 29, 2015

Local news satire lacks bite

As Jon Stewart bows out at the top of America’s rich “fake news” comedy roster, local attempts offer little more than glib cynicism.

Gardening August 08, 2015

Growing raspberries, strawberries and berries

Their claim to being true berries is curiously spurious but, when homegrown, raspberries and strawberries leave other summer treats in the shade.

Television July 25, 2015

Mr Robot’s fresh take on hacking

A new drama on cyber spying thrillingly – and accurately – up-ends cliché to portray the complex power of information.

Television May 30, 2015

Into the rainbow with the Muppets

At last the Muppets acknowledge that their humour works best hand in glove with ‘adult’ themes.

Television April 25, 2015

Broad City set to become this decade’s Seinfeld

Broad City offers a welcome step back from comedy focused on self-improvement.

Gardening March 21, 2015

War of the weeds

To keep the peace in any garden, you must be unafraid to let slip the dogs – and shovels – of war.

Television March 14, 2015

Q&A’s false democracy

Tony Jones invites Q&A audiences into an illusory democracy, where “representation” belies equality.

Television February 14, 2015

Portlandia shines while sketching the truth

How Portlandia’s organic, free-ranging satire makes us laugh at our artisanal pretensions.

Gardening January 31, 2015

Singing the praises of kale and cauli, baby

When it comes to being a great green, the brassica family of cauliflower and kale does it easy.

Gardening November 29, 2014

Lies, damned lies and exotics

Gardening half-truths go back at least to Joseph Banks, but his more noble legacy is our love of exotic plants.

Television November 22, 2014

TV medical dramas suffer from a reality bypass

Only an incurable fan would think today’s medical dramas have any instructive value.

Gardening October 25, 2014

Herb your enthusiasm

Why spend a fortune on herbs at the supermarket only to watch them decay in your crisper drawer? Get hooked on growing your own.

Television October 18, 2014

Laugh tracks from beyond the grave

Canned laughter kills good comedy. Fittingly, for many years it came from beyond the grave.

Gardening September 20, 2014

A time to kill those pesky garden pests

When uninvited pests come to visit, declare war with sustainable practices – and also an old-fashioned dose of hand-to-hand combat.

Television September 13, 2014

The Brilliant Creatures of Australian culture

Howard Jacobson’s documentary on Australia’s propensity to send its intellectuals packing.

Gardening August 23, 2014

Enjoy the fruits of tomato-growing labour

Join the ranks of the fearless fighting rot and rain to nurture a nightshade – the tomato.

Television August 09, 2014

Food shows overcook reality

Shows like MasterChef have little to do with food, but instead reveal how we’ve become gluttons for meaning.

Gardening July 19, 2014

No-dig potatoes

When it comes to producing flavoursome spuds, you can’t beat homegrown. The question is, do you dig it?

Television July 05, 2014

Reelpolitik

Politics is fertile territory for the small screen, but it has always been the sharp comedies that reveal the truth of the dark arts.

Gardening June 28, 2014

Coming up roses

Seeking rich, colourful reward for little toil? An old-school thorny friend sets the standard.

Gardening May 31, 2014

Dirty deeds of soil health

Improving the quality of your soil is a time-consuming labour of love, and compost is a rotten way to go about it.

Gardening May 10, 2014

Propagate and prosper

It may not be sexy, but nothing beats the satisfaction – or the economy – of growing plants from scratch.

Television May 03, 2014

The past imperfect

Mad Men’s glimpses into another era make us just as uneasy about our present.

Gardening April 19, 2014

Spring bulbs

Despite the regal appearance of spring flowering bulbs, their simple cultivation makes them a common pleasure.

Television March 29, 2014

National Geographic Channel’s Cosmos a win for learning

When a man known for vulgar humour combines with a beautiful mind, the resulting TV is no joke.

Culture March 08, 2014

Girls stripped bare

Since when does creating true art have to go hand in hand with ‘keeping it real’?