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John Doyle: Television

A mad weekend journey Add to ...

This weekend is a mad journey on TV. You can acquaint yourself with horror and mystery, if you like. The Trial of Amanda Knox (Sunday, 8 p.m., TLC) is a look at the case of the American student who was found guilty of murdering her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italy. There was a lurid trial; TLC is likely to pander to that luridness. Cold Case (Sunday, 10 p.m., CBS) is a two-parter with the great, gravel-voiced Susanna Thompson as a guest star. She plays "a rogue FBI agent" who helps Lilly (Kathryn Morris) find a sniper who's been shooting Philadelphians, off and on, for more than two decades. Continues next week. And, by the way, Cold Case is rumoured to be on the verge of cancellation. Your main menu, mind you, involves the horror of big drug companies, the mystery of Don Cherry, and a look at Hollywood stereotypes of North American natives.

W5 (Saturday, 7 p.m., CTV)

This week's episode is an all-out assault on big pharmaceutical companies, but with a specific human-interest angle. Victor Malarek's report begins with the tale of Robert Landrigan from Surrey, B.C., who fought colon cancer before dying two years ago. During his treatment, he also had to fight the B.C. government for access to drugs that could prolong his life. The government said the drugs simply cost too much. The cost, of course, is the key - the price of some drugs is estimated to have risen 900 per cent in five years. From there, Malarek begins talking to skeptics, who say the big drug companies claim to spend up to $1-billion in research to bring a drug to market, but actually spend far less. One professor at Harvard says that the industry's claims are by "industry-supported people" who use "confidential data" available only to a company itself. Another skeptic, at Princeton, says Big Pharma spends more on marketing than research. "Most doctors in the U.S. are on the payroll of the pharmaceutical companies, in one way or another," she says. The explanations from the big drug companies are, well, unconvincing.

Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story (Sunday, 8 p.m., CBC)

Like everything that Don Cherry does or says, this two-part TV movie (continuing Monday) is critic-proof. Written by Cherry's son Tim - who is also an executive producer - the movie is an adoring, workmanlike biopic. It starts off with little Don as a kid in Kingston, and in trouble at school. "You have to find some way to channel your aggression," the principal says. That telegraphs the rest. Later, little Don says his prayers, asking God to bless, among others, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Soon, it's a grownup Don (Jared Keeso) playing hockey and, as the irritating voice-over says, "It was a different world then. We were outlaws and there weren't no sheriff." He meets and marries Rose (Sarah Manninen, who is great) and keeps on tellin' it like it is, ya' know. There isn't what anyone would call "psychological insight," and the picture we get of the professional hockey world is dark, but superficial. Ian Tracey ( Intelligence) turns up as Bruins manager Harry Sinden, and imbues the role with a slippery sort of menace that's intriguing but belongs in another movie. That Don, eh? He's a character. Tells it like it is. Not this movie, though.

Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian (Sunday, 10 p.m., CBC NN)

Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond takes a wry and insightful look at what he calls "the myth of the fearless, stoic warrior" - that is, the dominant Hollywood myth about North American natives. This is not a rote condemnation of stereotypes. In fact, it spends a lot of time talking to natives about their own myths and stereotypes. Diamond also skips lightly through a century of cinema, and there's a gentle, mocking tone to his treatment of early Hollywood material. Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch says that in the early days of Hollywood, real natives were used as extras, and paid in "firewater and tobacco." And one of the strengths of this doc is the amount of ancient Hollywood footage that portrays Indians as noble or savage. A small army of film historians is interviewed about the place of these depictions in American cultural history. Clint Eastwood in interviewed, too, and is thoughtful about the myths of the lone gunman and the Indian in American cinema, but Eastwood's remarks are chopped into various segments. Still, this is a good, engaging examination of received ideas.

Follow on Twitter: @MisterJohnDoyle

 

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