George Carlin: Jammin' in New York
Saturday, The Comedy Network, 9 p.m.
When future generations want to learn about the unique comedy phenomenon that was George Carlin, this program will be the reference point. Taped before a capacity crowd in Madison Square Garden in 1992, the performance was the late comedian's favourite among the 14 specials he taped for HBO, quite likely because the show took place in his home town. The most impressive part is watching how effortlessly the standup master shifts observational gears before the large audience. The special was taped a few months after the Gulf War, so Carlin naturally unloads on then-president George Bush, the elder, for turning his personal feud with then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein into a billion-dollar military conflict – or a “cockfight.” In the next breath, he's off on the absurdities that accompany air travel and magazines devoted to “any activity engaged in by more than four people in this country.” Watch and be astounded by how much of Carlin's material stands up two decades later.
Saturday, CBC News Network, 10 p.m.
Here's a sad and frightening statistic: Nearly half of Canada's aboriginal children will grow up fatherless in the next decade. This excellent documentary, produced by Geoff Leo of CBC Saskatchewan, shines a much-needed light on the problem. According to the experts interviewed, the problem can be partly credited to the negative influence of a residential school system that has left many aboriginal fathers struggling with unemployment, inadequate housing and substance abuse, among other problems. Filmed largely in Regina's North Central neighbourhood, the program concentrates on three First Nations men facing down their personal demons and doing their best to become better fathers. One man expresses remorse about being in jail when his children were born. Most touching is another young man, still in his teens and on the verge of first-time parenthood, who speaks of his resolve to reverse the trend and become a responsible father. “I'm gonna prove all you guys wrong.” A powerful film.
Sunday, CBS, 8 p.m.
Back for a third season, this freakishly popular reality series is sneaky but madly entertaining. The format involves CEOs slipping in among the rank and file of their own companies. Hidden cameras capture the interaction between masters and serfs and, lo and behold, everyone absorbs some kind of valuable lesson in the process. Or at least that's how it's supposed to work. The premise slips off the rails in the first new episode, in which the chairman and CEO of Diamond Resorts, an international time-share chain, dons old clothes to become a labourer at one of his own properties. On his first day, he accidentally starts a fire. Soon after, he defuses the show's premise by losing his temper with a below-par employee and breaks cover by revealing his true identity. Not a great start, but the concept will presumably revert to normal in upcoming episodes. And want to hear something really scary? A Canadian version of this show begins airing in early February. Watch your back.
Sunday, Fox, Global, 8:30 p.m.
Remember Napoleon Dynamite? A 2004 theatrical release, the quirky low-budget comedy was a mainstream hit and made an instant star out of Jon Heder, who seemed born to play a hopelessly geeky high-schooler in rural Idaho. Eight years later, we have the animated followup, which likely speaks volumes about TV's ability to respond quickly to a hit movie (for that matter, NBC recently launched The Firm, which picks up the story from the 1993 Tom Cruise film). The good news is that the animation is rightly unassuming and the cartoon versions are voiced by the entire original cast, including Heder and Aaron Ruell as his even nerdier brother, Kip. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much imagination put into the show: In the opener, Napoleon gets bounced around by school bullies, while Kip dates yet another girl he's met online. Wasn't that pretty much the entire movie? Not great, but amusing in moments. Either way, vote for Pedro.
Check local listings.