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USA
Language
English

Fridays. People are peculiar about Fridays.

Some flee work and leg it home as fast as possible. There, many can be found supine, with a cold cloth on the face as they listen to Andy Williams. Others -- and I swear I'm not making this up -- get together with people from work and whoop it up for hours. They can't get enough! Maybe they're all on Zoloft or Paxil. Me, I'm on Turtles.

Some rent a movie. Others mosey out for a nice dinner and, when the second glass of wine takes hold between the main course and dessert, they start ranting about the idiots they work with. As it happens, certain individuals watch TV. Starting today, Friday gets really busy. There are two new Canadian series and one doozy of an out-there American network drama. You need to be nimble with the remote, and make decisions.

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Hatching, Matching and Dispatching (CBC, 9 p.m.) is the new sitcom-of-sorts created by and starring Mary Walsh. You want rowdy Newfoundland humour, spiky dialogue and many grotesque gags -- this is the business. Last year's pilot for Hatching was an hour long, which made it difficult to judge its potential as a series of 30-minute episodes. The result, airing tonight, is raucous, rude and sometimes bizarre.

We are in Cats Gut Cove, where the Furey family operates an all-in business -- matrimonial, ambulance and funeral services, and baby showers if required. Mamie Lou Furey (Walsh) presides over the business and the clan. There's Myrna (Sherry White), who is married to the hardheaded mainlander Todd (Mark McKinney), and snippy daughter Darlene (Susan Kent), who doesn't like anybody, but does like dressing up and playing corpse. There are several other crackpots floating around including totally mad gravedigger Cyril Pippy, played with aplomb by Shaun Majumder.

They all swear a blue streak. The f-word is a kind of useful punctuation. Some of the humour is a tad weird. One piece of dialogue about gay sex is beyond belief. The best moments are the less raucous ones -- bits of nifty physical humour when everybody isn't shouting insults and making gnomic remarks. You have to see it, really you do.

Getting Along Famously (CBC, 9:30 p.m.) is the second comedy from last year's batch of CBC pilots to be turned into a series. It's an odd, retro-twisted sitcom, starring Colin Mochrie and Debra McGrath as Kip and Ruby, a pair of Canadian celebrities who have their own variety show on CBC in 1964. They josh, joke and do song-and-dance routines that are, well, weird. In one number, the lyrics start: "There's a brand-new dance/That'll split your pants/ It's called The A-bomb." Right. Some showbiz parts of the series are hilarious and gloriously plausible. Mind you, much of the banter between the central characters is tediously, one-note unfunny.

The Book of Daniel (CH, 8 p.m., NBC, 9 p.m.) is easily the most outrageously original American network series to arrive in ages. It's about religion, mainly. Not only that -- Jesus is in it.

The central character is Rev. Daniel Webster (Aidan Quinn), an Episcopalian minister who has a few problems on the home front. His eldest son, Peter (Christian Campbell), has announced that he's gay, but only to some in his family. This makes it a bit awkward when Daniel's dad, a bishop, regularly encourages Peter to find a good woman and settle down. Teenage daughter Grace (Alison Pill) is arrested for dealing drugs. Adopted son Adam (Ivan Shaw) has seriously raging hormones. Wife Judith (Susanna Thompson) drinks a lot. Daniel's mother has Alzheimer's and -- wait for it -- his brother-in-law stole millions in church funds. Oh yeah, Daniel is also battling a Vicodin addiction.

This is all handled with a delicate sense of bittersweet comedy. Then, along comes Jesus. He starts appearing to Daniel and saying annoyingly tedious things to him. The fact that he also happens to look like Charles Manson doesn't help. The Book of Daniel has already seriously divided American critics. Nobody is quite sure what to make of it. What's certain is that there is going to be a lot of talk about it.

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Also airing this weekend: Hockey Day in Canada (Saturday, CBC, noon) is 13 hours of hockey features and three NHL games.

Ice Storm: The Salé and Pelletier Affair (Saturday, CTV, 8 p.m.) is a thorough look at the extraordinary events surrounding the Olympic skating competition in Salt Lake City in February, 2002. Jamie Sale and David Pelletier skated a superb program but came second. The world learned that the fix was in. Judge Marie Reine Le Gougne of France was at the centre if it, but eventually the FBI was involved and a shadowy Russian arms dealer was named as a conspirator. You're left wondering about the legitimacy of the coming Olympic skating competition.

Dates and times may vary. Check local listings.

DOYLE'S QUICK PICKSMONDAY

FRONTLINE:

COUNTRY BOYS

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This is, without doubt, the major American program of the week -- a three-night, six-hour doc exploring the coming-of-age of two boys, Chris (above) and Cody, in the mining towns of Kentucky.

A substantial investigation

of American youth today

(by David Sutherland, who made the classic doc

The Farmer's Wife),

the series is heartbreaking

and also deeply insightful about the economic and

social forces that will shape the adult lives of these boys.

PBS, 9 p.m., continuing Tuesday, Wednesday

MONDAY

EMILY'S REASONS

WHY NOT

Heather Graham comes to network TV in this slight but wacky sitcom about a publishing executive who has trouble finding a decent guy. There's a forced Sex and the City-style to it, but Graham can do the necessary screwball comedy with gusto and she has an easy-to-watch presence.

ABC, 9 p.m.

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