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If you look to your right (my left) you'll see some smart-alecky commentary on the matter of Irish cliches. This being a week that starts with St. Patrick's Day, the TV schedule is full of Irish-themed programs. The stand-out drama is Rebel Heart, a two-part, four-hour miniseries that stirred some silly controversy in the U.K. when it aired recently. The drama is written by Ronan Bennet, a leading Irish writer and, it turns out, someone who was once accused of being involved with the IRA. Arrested as a teenager, Bennet was held and released. Later he was arrested again and then acquitted. The fact that this happened when he was a teenager and that he later earned a doctorate in history and published acclaimed novels, didn't matter to certain elements in the British media. You see, Rebel Heart is about the period in Irish history from the Easter rebellion of 1916 to the Civil War of 1922. To some English newspapers, Bennet's work is tainted and clearly pro-IRA. The BBC was reprimanded, by the Daily Telegraph no less, for making a drama by such a suspicious individual. The drama isn't propaganda. Seen through the eyes of an initially naive young man, Ernie Coyne (James D'Arcy), Rebel Heart is about the radicalization of a population. Ernie Coyne epitomizes much -- he takes part in the rebellion as a dreamer and idealist. The street battles and mayhem don't faze him because he's fallen in love with a young woman who is also a rebel. Then the British reaction to the rebellion hardens him and, by the time the full-scale uprising against British rule begins, he's ripe for rage. After escaping a murder squad sent to annihilate a Catholic family in Belfast, he becomes a cold-blooded killer. The series starts shakily but finds a rhythm and pace that's compelling. It's also rather poignant about the patriot game, being based, as it is, on much of what happened. It's not based on what some dreary English newspaper wished had happened.

Rebel Heart airs Saturday and Sunday, 9 p.m., History

There's an entirely different set of ethnic cliches operating on Some of My Best Friends, a dippy little midseason sitcom from CBS. This tough, knuckleheaded Italian kid, Frankie (Danny Nucci) moves out of his parents home because he wants to be an actor. Dumb and getting dumber the moment he sets foot in Manhattan, he responds to an ad, 'GWM seeking roommate' and he believes this means Guy With Money wants a roommate. After some silly business he eventually discovers that his new roommate is gay. Eventually the truth clicks and Frankie tells Warren (Jason Bateman), 'For a homo, you're a standup guy.' Naturally Warren has a mincing, effeminate and bitchy friend and, naturally, Frankie has considerable trouble getting his thick head around the gay world. Being neither Italian nor gay, I can't speak to the subject of feeling personally outraged by the stereotypes on display here. The thing is, I doubt if anybody is truly dismayed. The show is a cute, kind-of-sweet sitcom and nobody can consider themselves truly a target of the goofy humour. Check it out, to be outraged or be amused.

Some of My Best Friends airs Thursday, 9:30 p.m., CH (pre-empted on CBS this week)

A dark documentary airing this week compels us to look at stereotypes in a far more profound manner. Life on the Heater is about 24 hours in the lives of homeless people who congregate at a heating vent in Ottawa. Filmmaker Thomas Mann, a first timer who has had his own troubles, knows that he can only give us a snapshot, but he manages to evoke much more than cliches. There's a teenager who had been in 46 foster homes by the time he was 14 years old. There's a woman who has led a losing battle with booze and drugs and now has AIDS. All sorts of stories are told, some self-serving and others heartbreaking. The film makes a point about these people existing as they do just a few blocks from Parliament Hill, but that is not really the point. The point is that the reality offered to us is remote from the lip service offered by politicians everywhere on the subject of the homeless.

The View From Here: Life On The Heater airs Wednesday, 10 p.m., TVO