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0 out of 4 stars


Only a week to go until Christmas Eve and I didn't think that festive feeling would ever overtake me -- until I was visited by the spirit of Joey Jeremiah.

Tonight brings a seasonal episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation (CTV, 8 p.m.). It's the first Christmas episode in the Degrassi franchise history, if you can believe it, and it's a surprisingly pleasant holiday offering.

As usual, much of the story concerns the new breed of kids on the show -- specifically, crafty Craig (Jake Epstein) who seems to think he can date both Ashley (Melissa McIntyre) and Manny (Cassie Steele). Guess again, dude.

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But for those who grew up on Degrassi, the main attraction tonight is the potential of a rekindled romance between Joey Jeremiah (Pat Mastroianni) and Caitlin (Stacie Mistysyn). Joey and Caitlin were lovebirds on the original series and were even engaged at one point. The romance went sour but they stayed friends.

Now Caitlin is back in town, it's the holiday season and she's feeling lonely and looking longingly at Joey--one of the all-time nice guys in Canadian TV -- who appears oblivious to her interest. As fate would have it, Joey is already hooked up with another lady, who seems hip to Caitlin's attentions.

The episode is well-written and eventful, in keeping with Degrassi tradition. Awkward situations abound: Caitlin pours her heart into a love letter to Joey, puts it through his mail slot and then tries to retrieve it by crawling through the kitchen window. Still Caitlin after all these years.

Not to divulge the ending, but it's certain to bring smiles to the faces of fans of the continuing series. This a terribly sweet story and a very Canadian one that somehow suspended even my holiday cynicism. It even inspired me to start my Christmas shopping, so there.

Today marks the 100th anniversary to the day of the first-known flight of the airplane. Sure, it was a rickety old four-cylinder plane, and it only stayed aloft 12 seconds, but a flight is still a flight. Let the documentaries commence.

Luckily, there are some decent programs marking the occasion. The Wright Bros: Their Magnificent Flying Machines (History, 8 p.m.) profiles Wilbur and Orville Wright, two small-town Ohio brothers and bicycle mechanics who built and flew the plane for that maiden flight.

Orville and Wilbur never even finished high school, but they cracked the challenge of propelled flight well before some of the day's top scientific minds. The program profiles the brothers' drive to succeed and delves into the rarely discussed personal aftermath that came with their historical accomplishment.

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The Great Atlantic Air Race (History, 9 p.m.) recalls a global challenge from 1919, in which pilots were all over each other for the honour of being first to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. And Mabel Bell's Aerial Experiment (History, 10 p.m.) is about Alexander Graham Bell's very smart wife, Mabel, who formed a company that designed and built four working airplanes less than a year after the Wright brothers' first flight.

Bringing the flaps down, Centennial of Flight (CBC Newsworld, 10:30 p.m.) capsules flight-anniversary events held earlier in the day, which include a planned re-enactment of the Wright brothers' voyage at the original location of Kitty Hawk, N.C., with the festivities hosted by actor and pilot John Travolta.

Fire this one up: Grass (Bravo!, 9 p.m.) is one fine documentary on, and in celebration of, marijuana. Don't watch it fried, man. Better you should pay attention.

Grass is the 1999 treatise from Toronto filmmaker Ron Mann, and possibly his best work. This a virtual compendium of cannabis, or at least its history in North America. The Genie-winning film is narrated by Woody Harrelson, who of course brings his own celebrity hemp-fuelled agenda, so you know it's pro-pot going in.

Divided into seven easy-to-follow segments, the film shows how The Man, a.k.a. the U.S. Government, has been trying to blot out marijuana since it snuck into the U.S. via Mexico at the turn of the century. The Man has demonized the weed and spent billions on law enforcement to eradicate it since, but to little effect. Everyone's still smokin' those doobies, brother.

As expected, the best moments are from the dozens of archive clips Mann has assembled, such as those from classic 1960s anti-drug classroom films, with kids in afros and bellbottoms getting high and wrecking their lives; a 1968 reel of Sonny Bono telling the kids to just say no. The prerequisite clips of Reefer Madness and Cheech and Chong are included.

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But my favourite is the clip of Cab Calloway and orchestra, belting out that little-known hit Reefer Man in the early 1940s, with the lyrics, "If he trades you dimes for nickels and calls watermelons pickles then you know you're talking to that Reefer Man!" That Cab could swing, daddy! Grass is a good time and there's some responsible context about pot scattered throughout the film. In fact, it's the kind of film parents should probably sit down and watch with their teens -- particularly if the parents know their kids are getting better stuff than their own.

On tonight's Primetime: Special Edition (ABC, 10 p.m.), daytime talk diva Oprah Winfrey talks to Diane Sawyer about her visit to South Africa, where she's mounting a relief effort for thousands of children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic. Every frame of footage from her recent trip is heartbreaking.

Oprah knows how to set priorities. Each night, while David Letterman keeps hyping her alleged participation in his Super Bowl of Love event next month, Oprah is out there, getting it done.

Dates and times may vary across the country. Check listings or visit John Doyle returns on Jan. 12.

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