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Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson in The Song of Lunch. (Nick Briggs / BBC)
Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson in The Song of Lunch. (Nick Briggs / BBC)

John Doyle

Oscars to be sure, but PBS drama too Add to ...


Saturday, CTV, 7 p.m.

This week’s program tackles prostitution in York Region, on the outskirts of Toronto, and part of its impact, which is considerable, is the demolition of the idea that many young women trapped in the sex trade are those forced to come here from other countries. This is very much about pimps preying on young women who are local, “daughters, neighbours, students.” While it is described as “a gritty, inside look” and it is that, it is also about cops taking a very long time to gain the trust of young women who live in fear of violence. The core story is about “Jasmine” a student at the University of Western Ontario, who worked as a waitress, then a stripper, until a boyfriend took over her life. After being showered with charm and gifts, she was forced into paying for what she’d been given, through prostitution. Her journey to giving evidence against her pimp is one highly charged story

Waking the Titanic

Saturday, CBC NN, 10 p.m. on The Passionate Eye

This lovely and poignant doc is a different take on the Titanic story. Made in Ireland, it is about how the Titanic’s sinking affected a small town called Lahardane in County Mayo. From there, 14 people left on the Titanic in steerage, as the poorest of the poor, immigrating to the United States, and 11 died. As we’re told, the people of the village did not talk about it for over 90 years. (The whole community helped a local filmmaker on this project, which is also, in part, a docudrama, and no professional actors are involved.) Elderly people talk of an uncle or an aunt who perished. Someone reads a letter one of the young women on the Titanic sent ahead of her voyage: “Dear cousin, I am coming to America on the nicest ship in the world.” There are wonderful vignettes of life in the village in 1912, when the locals left for the U.S. And there is terrible heartbreak in the memories evoked

The Academy Awards

Sunday, ABC, CTV, 8:30 p.m.

Here we go – the frock opera of the red-carpet coverage, Billy Crystal attempting wit and, perhaps, viewers wondering why they got suckered into the hours of coverage. Here’s the rundown of the very confusing schedule – early red-carpet coverage starts on E! Canada, 5:30 p.m., with Ryan Seacrest and his sidekicks, and CTV at the Oscars airs at 6 p.m. on the CTV main channel, with Ben Mulroney joined by Leah Miller for her first Oscar appearance (you go, Leah!) as Mulroney does the interviews and Leah talks “red-carpet arrivals and celebrity fashion.” Then at 7 p.m. over on CTV Two it’s Oscars Red Carpet Live, hosted by Robin Roberts and Tim Gunn. Eventually comes the main show, about the movies. Don’t forget, Cirque du Soleil will perform. If you think, as many do, that only the fashion matters, then advance word is Grecian-goddess dresses and nude, natural-hue tones. So there. No drinking games, please

The Song of Lunch

Sunday, PBS, 9 p.m. on Masterpiece Contemporary

Yes, there is counterprogramming to the Oscars. PBS goes with this, an enjoyable and preposterously pretentious sort-of drama, about a long lunch. Adapted from Christopher Reid’s narrative poem, it’s about a grumpy publisher/poet (Alan Rickman) and an old flame (Emma Thompson) meeting at one of those slightly seedy Italian restaurants in London’s Soho where such types gather. He’s charmless, he eventually realizes, and she has done much better without him. It is also about middle-age and regret. Also in counter-Oscar programming, there’s a repeat of John A: Birth of a Country (CBC, 8 p.m.) a terrific dramatization of the political battles between John A. Macdonald (Shawn Doyle) and George Brown (Peter Outerbridge), the founder of this great newspaper. There's an air of feuding gang leaders to the story and it isn’t pretentious at all.

All times ET. Check local listings.

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