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Everyone's a TV critic these days. It's become quite fashionable for people to expound on the dire state of television, and their opinions come with little prompting and in the harshest of tones. No doubt the critical attitude comes from living in the 500-channel universe: Give the panting public a limitless number of viewing options and it's inevitable they'll hate most of them. It's just the human condition.

The widespread negative stance is made easier by the existence of network television. There's unquestionably some fine product emanating from Canadian and U.S. broadcasters -- Corner Gas, The West Wing, Arrested Development, to name a few -- but more often the primetime hours are clogged by witless sitcoms, dreary dramas and, scariest of all, a seemingly never-ending supply of reality fodder. It's difficult to defend an industry that has framed reality shows around Paris Hilton and her mother.

Luckily, there are signs of intelligent life out there. This week's issue of Globe Television focuses on the new television season for cable and specialty channels. These are the channels that make TV worth watching, and their programming lineups seem to be getting better at the same time that networks are on the decline. Enjoy the new season and, as always, feel free to discuss among yourselves.

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A&E

Same old, same old. Not much going on this season over at the "arts" network, other than the usual dog's breakfast of reality shows. The only thing new on the horizon is the half-hour series Move This House about, you guessed it, the travails of real people packing up and moving on (Oct. 7, 4 p.m.). Other than that, watch for a two-hour special, Vampires, on Oct. 28 (8 p.m.), which asks such piercing questions as: Is being a vampire about blood and death or about living life to the fullest?

-- CR

APTN

The network kicks off its season starting the week of Oct. 3 with the arrival of Wolf Lake (Wednesdays at 11:30 p.m. and Sundays at midnight). The 2001 series stars Lou Diamond Phillips as a cop investigating very strange occurrences in a small Seattle suburb. In other new programs, Street Legal (Thursdays at 8 p.m.) is not to be confused with the Canadian series of the same name. This new drama hails from New Zealand television and the central figures are David and Joni, the proprietors of a foundering law firm that is forced to accept all clients -- from nasty crooks to nefarious drug wholesalers. And Rez Bluez (Saturdays at 10 p.m.) is a blues-inspired variety show in which aboriginal musicians take the spotlight. There are also regular comedy sketches thrown in for good measure. Also on APTN this fall: Tshinanu (Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.) is a showcase for short documentary films about native culture. And Papakassiku (Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m.) follows a small band of Innu people on their annual caribou hunt.

-- AR

BRAVO!

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Jerry Springer on the Canadian channel devoted to arts and culture? Well yes, if it's Jerry Springer -- The Opera. The award-winning theatrical musical starring David Soul (Starsky & Hutch), also a name not usually associated with the arts, airs Dec. 10. And another unusual operatic offering launches in the new year. Bathroom Divas: So You Wanna Be. . . An Opera Star! (Jan. 7, 2006) narrows down a field of 300 applicants -- ranging from a female forklift driver to a Yukon postie to a software analyst and even a country music singer -- to six aria-warbling wannabes. The one who shows the most improvement during an intensive opera boot camp gets to perform live on stage in a professional production. Based on a very rough cut of the first episode, Bathroom Divas promises to be a sparkling American Idol for the cultured set.

Other music-related programming includes Djangomania (Sept. 25, 8 p.m.), a look at Gypsy guitar legend Django Reinhardt whose music is enjoying a revival 50 years after his death; a two-hour documentary about the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Five Days in September: The Rebirth of an Orchestra (Oct. 15, 8 p.m.); and playful monologist Keir Cutler debunking myths about the classical composer in Lunatic van Beethoven (Oct. 26, 8 p.m.).

Among the visual arts selections this season is Dark Pines: A Documentary Investigation Into the Death of Tom Thomson (Oct. 23, 8 p.m.). The one-hour docudrama exploring the famed painter's mysterious death is directed by David Vaisbord (Drawing Out the Demons: A Film About the Artist Attila Richard Lukacs and Juicy Danger Meets Burning Man.)

And the Bravo!FACT foundation devoted to funding Canadian short art films finally gets a true primetime showcase for its talent, as Bravo!FACT Presents moves to Fridays at 7:30 p.m. The new timeslot launches Oct. 7, with a half-hour of innovative shorts from Don McKellar, Sook-Yin Lee, Sudz Sutherland and Mark McKinney.

-- HW

CMT

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Two additions to the country-music station's roster: The Wilkinsons: House Raising (began Sept. 5) is a quasi-reality show that follows the efforts of a man to relocate his family from the bright lights of Nashville to small town Canada. And CMT Star (began Sept. 5) profiles today's top country artists, from Shania Twain to Reba McEntire.

-- AR

CNN

The all-news cable channel is strangely devoid of new programming this fall. Their only new arrival came with the recent addition of The Situation Room. Airing 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays, the program is hosted by Wolf Blitzer and is intended to "blend traditional newsgathering with up-to-the-second information." And so far it seems to be working, since CNN's ratings in that time block increased after the show debuted last month.

-- AR

COMEDY

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New shows this fall include Stella (Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m., starting Sept. 20), in which three-man comedy troupe Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain wear business suits and act very silly. The 10-part series originally aired on Comedy Central in the U.S. In other hilarious offerings: Sushi TV (Nov. 12) is a weekly collection of bizarre Japanese game-show clips. Con (Nov. 25) is a reality outing in which cameras follow a chap named Skyler Stone who talks his way in and out of various situations -- a Hollywood movie premiere, for example. Also new is the original series Girls Will Be Girls (Oct. 21), with an all-female cast orchestrating outrageous stunts and pranks. In returning series on Comedy: Punk'd is back for a fourth year of high-concept pranks (Sept. 26); Corner Gas returns for its third campaign (Oct. 1); bad-boy Kevin Spencer is back for its eighth and final season (Oct. 2); and the second broadcast window for NBC's Tommy Lee Goes To College (Oct. 14) proves that the reality show was supposed to be funny after all.

-- AR

CPAC

Now we can see how it's done over the pond as British Prime Minister's Question Time (premiering Oct. 14), a weekly half-hour session from England's House of Commons where MPs lob queries at Tony Blair, joins the Canadian political channel's fall schedule. And, after a trial run this summer, Outburst (Sundays, 9:30 p.m.) continues with Glen McInnis on the street talking to people about hot button issues like softwood lumber. Returning shows include CPAC's flagship program PrimeTime Politics (weeknights at 8 p.m.) and Question Period is back each day while the House of Parliament is in session, but at a new time: 9 p.m. Ken Rockburn continues his pointed interviews on Talk Politics (Sundays, 7 p.m.), and upcoming documentaries on Focus (Sundays, 9 p.m.) include Solidarity Forever (Sept. 19), a look at the fate of unions, and a historical doc on the building of Ottawa's Rideau Canal (Sept. 25).

-- HW

DISCOVERY

Captain Kirk is the big draw on Discovery this season. The two-hour special, How William Shatner Changed the World (Nov. 13) based on Shatner's recent book, reveals how science is surpassing the future foreshadowed by the sci-fi TV series Star Trek. Among new Discovery-style stand-alone programs are the space exploration docudrama Alien Planet (Oct. 9, 8 p.m.); Walking with Monsters (Nov. 6); Killer Dinosaurs (Dec. 18); and The Blasters (Dec. 4), two hours on the men and women of demolition blasting. Atypical specials include Sexual Intelligence hosted by Sex and the City siren Kim Cattrall (Nov. 20); Voyage to Tsunami (Dec. 11); and the Werner Herzog feature documentary Grizzly Man (winter 2006) about tragically bear-obsessed Timothy Treadwell.

New series include: Mega Builders (starts Sept. 18); Canada's Worst Driver (starts Oct. 2); the Canadian-made CSI-style True Crime Scene (starts Oct. 21); Mean Machines (starts Nov. 3); and On the Run (starts Nov. 18) about Catch Me If You Can-style con artists.

-- HW

FOOD

It's not very appetizing but the new series Kitchen Crimes (Oct. 7, 7 p.m.) goes right to the guts of food preparation. In the first episode, Mike and Kiri, who are expecting a new baby, learn their kitchen is infested with fecal coliform. That's E.coli folks! For $5,000 they get a new fridge, dishwasher, new counters -- and a big lecture about hand washing.

In The Family Restaurant (Oct. 3, 9 p.m.), you'll see that the family that cooks together, bickers a lot. (They also drink a lot of ouzo and break their fair share of plates.)

Christine Cushing is back with a new show, No Reservations (Oct. 3, 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.), in which she invites three new foodie friends to join her for dinner each week.

Meal makeovers are the subjects of Crash My Kitchen (Oct. 3, 7 p.m.) as a team of three experts overhaul the old cooking habits of ordinary people.

I've never heard of the magazine Everyday Foods, but never mind, now it has a TV show of the same name (Oct. 3, 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.) based on its formula of easy recipes and handy cooking tips. Yum, yum.

Recipe For Success (Oct. 7, 8 p.m.) profiles the brave (or should that be foolhardy?) folks who have abandoned conventional careers to follow their food-loving dreams.

And finally Weighing In (Oct. 4, 7 p.m.) brings home the potential cost (in pounds and calories, that is) of watching all this TV gastro-porn, as Calorie Commando (?!) Juan Carlos Cruz directs the diets of a group of serious overeaters.

-- CR

HGTV

In the veritable sea of new home-and-business designs shows slated to join the already crowded lineup of decorate-until-you-drop programming on HGTV, one program is a must-watch -- at least once. That would be Craft Corner Death Match (Oct. 7, 9 p.m.), a parody of everything from WWE to Iron Chef in which two geeky craftspeople pit their creativity against the clock and one another.

Other than that it's design, design, design with new shows like Design Match, Design to Win, Opening Soon: By Design, reDesign . . . You get the picture.

In other news, Designer Guys is back this season making over the homes of ordinary people with three new guys doing the designing. Unlike the previous hosts, Matt, Anwar and Allen are all straight, and I'm sorry, but the show would be a lot more fun if they could be just a little bitchier.

-- CR

HISTORY

Over There, the ongoing drama about the war going on right now in Iraq is the big event on History Television this season (Tuesdays at 9 p.m., premiered Sept. 5) even if it's not, strictly speaking, history yet. But that's okay; the network is stretching the definition of the word in other programs, too.

Full Throttle (Tuesday nights at 8 p.m., also premiered Sept. 5), for instance, is about classic car makeovers. The first episode features 1968 Ford Mustangs. They're historical, right?

Then there's Things That Move (Oct. 3, 6 p.m.), a real snorer that examines the "history" of some kind of moving machine in each episode. As in: more than you ever wanted to know about ice resurfacers and elevators.

The network's Remembrance Day offering, Bomber Boys (Nov. 7-11, 8 p.m.), actually delves into the past as a group of young men relive the wartime experiences of their grandfathers who were members of a Second World War Lancaster Bomber crew.

-- CR

LIFE

Martha looks terrific! She's lost weight, she's out of jail, her stock is going up, and her new syndicated daytime show, Martha (started Sept. 12, 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.; begins Sept. 18 on Prime, 11 p.m.), is destined to be a big hit. No wonder she's positively bubbling about the everyday wonders of such pseudo trends as ponchos and recipes for red velvet cake. (No mention of ankle bracelets, though.)

Other than that, Life goes on with a batch of new shows including The Mom Show (Oct. 3 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.), Renovate My Wardrobe (Oct. 9 at 8:30) and Till Debt Do Us Part (November, date and time TBA), a program that each week saves some lucky couple from the doldrums of debt. Even Martha would approve of that.

-- CR

THE MOVIE NETWORK

The wait is over: Curb Your Enthusiasm finally returns to The Movie Network (starting Sept. 25 at 8:30 p.m.). The fifth season of the acclaimed HBO comedy series brings back Larry David as the world's most lovable misanthrope, with Cheryl Hines and Jeff Garlin co-starring as his wife and best friend/agent, respectively. Also coming to TMN: Terminal City (Oct. 17 at 9 p.m.) is a new series about a young wife and mother (Maria Del Mar) who is diagnosed with breast cancer. The Canadian-made series co-stars Gil Bellows and Paul Soles. Down the road, TMN will debut the HBO series Big Love (starts in January), which concerns a certified polygamist (Bill Paxton) and the three women with whom he's exchanged vows. And among upcoming original films are: Mrs. Harris (airs in March, 2006), which casts Annette Bening as Jean Harris, the New York socialite who murdered her ex-lover (Ben Kingsley). And the biggest news for next spring is the long awaited sixth season of The Sopranos and the third campaign of Deadwood, which both return in March, 2006.

-- AR

MPIX

The biggest arrival on the MPIX schedule is the acclaimed film Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream (Oct. 1 at 9 p.m.). Based on the book by Stuart Samuels, the documentary focuses on those strange films that became cultural phenomena back in the mid-'70s -- including Pink Flamingos, Eraserhead and, of course, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

-- AR

MUCHMUSIC

Call it a new form of viewer interaction: The new series Much 911 (started Aug. 15) is all about wish fulfillment. Fans send in their various requests -- which can range from a burning desire to meet a rock star to help in arranging a complex prank -- and two lucky winners are chosen each week. In the first show, Much VJs Devon and Sarah helped a garage band achieve their big show business break. Also new: Born to Be (began Aug. 15) profiles those music icons who, despite their humble beginnings, were destined for pop superstardom. Included in the list: Usher, Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne. And Video on Trial (started Aug. 15) has pop culture experts critiquing the latest music videos for style and substance, or lack thereof. Coming down the road: MuchMusic VJ Search: The Series (debuts in January, 2006) will involve a cross-country search for the station's next great face. The search will play out over nine episodes and culminate in a live two-hour finale.

-- AR

MUCHMOREMUSIC

You have to admire the blindside approach of Motormouth (began Aug. 14). Each episode of the reality series catches two people who simply love to sing in their cars (the ambushes are set up by family and friends). The amateur vocalists are then placed into an impromptu "sing-off" competition, which produces some truly awful sounds. Other additions to the M3 schedule: Evolution (began Aug. 15) profiles defining artists of the '80s and '90s (read: The Ramones, Madonna) to demonstrate how they were really the precursors of today's pop icons (read: Green Day, Britney Spears). The ABCs of Rock (began Aug. 15) is an alphabetical primer of modern rock history with an emphasis on those artists with a controversial bent. And who's hotter -- J.Lo or Beyonce? Here's your chance to find out: HeatMeter (began Aug. 16) compares and contrasts the popularity of music personalities, who are judged via viewer voting and a panel of experts.

-- AR

OLN

The cable channel ventures further into the great outdoors this season with the addition of several new regular series: Man Trackers (April 2006) involves a reality format in which two "fugitives" are set loose in the wilds, followed shortly after by two veteran "hunters" who try to track them down. Also new: Fearless (began Sept. 7) is a series profiling adventurers who have pushed themselves above and beyond. One of the first shows focuses on Peter Hillary's efforts to recreate his father's ascent of Mount Everest. And The Long Way Round (Nov. 1) chronicles the motorcycle trip taken by actors Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting) and Charley Boorman that took four months and covered 32,000 kilometers. Other new arrivals on OLN this fall include Globe Guides (began Sept. 9), a weekly search for the world's liveliest festivals and special events; Outdoor Investigations (no airdate yet), which unravels travel oddities across North America; and Nature Brigade (January 2006), in which a squad of stalwart souls track down nasty environmental offenders.

-- AR

PBS

Each fall brings at least one big-ticket TV event from the American public broadcaster and this season is no exception: Airing under the American Masters banner, No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (Sept. 26 and 27 at 9 p.m.) is an epic piece of documentary filmmaking. Assembled by master director Martin Scorsese, the film focuses on the years 1961 to 1966, during which time Dylan went from simple folk singer to a genuine cultural icon -- much to the chagrin of his most devoted fans who accused their hero of "selling out." Running at three-and-a-half hours, the documentary includes recent interviews with several of Dylan's musical contemporaries, including Joan Baez and Dave Von Ronk.

In other rebellious voices, the four-part series Get Up, Stand Up: The Story of Pop and Protest (starts Sept. 28) is a thorough look at the longstanding connection between pop music and civil unrest -- from '50s folk troubadours to today's rap stars. Also this fall on PBS: RX for Survival: A Global Health Challenge (starts Nov. 1) is bound to draw attention -- and not just because it's narrated by Brad Pitt. The series examines those innovations that have enabled mankind to increase life expectancy in North America, and explores how those advances can do the same in developing nations.

Airing in two parts, Pioneers of Primetime (November) pays tribute to the top TV stars of the '50s, including Red Skelton, Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and others. The narration is ponderous and dull, but the old-show clips are just terrific.

Historian Michael Wood returns to PBS in the new series In Search of Myths and Heroes. The four-part effort finds the historian/author globetrotting in order to prove or debunk the world's most famous fables, from the existence of Shangri-La to the ancient story of Jason and the Golden Fleece.

As always, many viewers are awaiting the return of the award-winning series Frontline, which kicks off the new season with the smashing documentary The O.J. Verdict (Oct. 4). The program interviews the key players in the famous murder trial. Filmed 10 years later, all those involved appear to have come to the same conclusion: The L.A. police framed a guilty man. Also coming on Frontline this fall: The Torture Question (Oct. 18), which examines the alarming increase of torture techniques employed by governments around the world; and the three-part epic Country Boys (January, 2006), in which award-winning filmmaker David Sutherland spent three years documenting the lives of two teen-age boys living in the hills of eastern Kentucky.

The highly regarded series P.O.V. begins its season with the documentaries The Hobart Shakespeare (Oct. 27) and Omar and Pete (date TBA). Next up in the series is the film 90 Miles (date TBA), in which writer Juan Carlos Zaldivar recounts the transition from his native Cuba to his adopted home of Miami.

Nova starts off the new season with Mystery of the Megaflood (Sept. 27), which delves into newly formed theories about the Ice Age. Also on Nova this season: Sinking the Supership (Oct. 4) about Second World War clash between the U.S. navy and the Japanese battleship Yamato; and Einstein's Big Idea (Oct. 11), which examines the thinking behind the man's famous theory of relativity.

The acclaimed series Nature starts its new season with the documentary Killers in Eden (Nov. 6), which focuses on the oddly symbiotic relationship between killer whales and those humans who hunt them. Also this season on Nature: Oceans in Glass (Nov. 13), filmed behind the scenes at the sprawling Monterey Bay Aquarium; and Can Animals Predict Disaster? (Nov. 20), which examines the eerily accurate psychic abilities of certain members of the animal kingdom.

-- AR

PRIME

Not exactly original (but then neither is the public's apparently insatiable appetite for the inexplicable, i.e., things that go bump in the night and disappear without a trace), Prime is premiering Northern Mysteries (Saturdays at 9 p.m. beginning Sept. 17), a Canadian take on UFOs, ghost stories, runaways and the like. The network's only other new offering is a behind-the-scenes food program called Adventures in Catering airing Saturdays at 9:30 p.m. beginning Nov. 5. It follows Toronto food-stylist Nancy Midwicki into the homes of people who can afford to pay someone else to do the cooking and the cleanup when they decided to throw a really big party.

-- CR

ROBTV

Investors can make smart decisions by getting the daily scoop on the best and worst stocks on the new Stars & Dogs with Andrew Bell (weekdays, 6 p.m.). Bell rates his picks and, with co-anchor Kim Parlee, explores the full story behind market moves. Another new feature this season is a series of themed programs airing Monday to Friday at 6:30 p.m. Look for Startups & Small Caps (examines new companies as they come of age); hotspot (follows the latest innovations in technology); Beat the Street: A Guide to Investing (an investing primer); Strictly Legal (explores personal legal issues); and Financial Fridays (this paper's Paul Waldie and expert guests review the week on Bay and Wall Streets).

-- HW

SHOWCASE

Phew! Where to begin. . . Showcase is keeping its promise to push the envelope. If you haven't already checked it out, The Grid (Wednesdays at 10 p.m.), is a tense, intelligent and timely thriller from the BBC about international terrorism, which had its Canadian premiere Aug. 31. Catch it soon, or you'll be hopelessly confused by the intricate, multiple plot lines.

Webdreams (Fridays at 10 p.m.), a hard-core look at the $2-billion Internet porn industry, premiered Sept. 2. Brace yourself for this one, and make sure the kids are in bed before tuning in.

The six-part It's Me. . . Gerald (Sundays at 9:30 p.m.) debuted Sept. 4. Shot in Toronto, this post-modern mockumentary about unknown director Gerald L'Ecuyer's efforts to direct a production of Hedda Gabbler is irresistibly inane.

Bizarre is the only way to describe Dead Like Me (Oct. 3, 10 p.m.), the Showtime cable series starring the sullen Ellen Muth as a young woman who is suddenly killed by a falling toilet seat and catapulted into a new career as a grim reaper.

Weeds (Oct. 12, 10 p.m.) stars the talented Mary-Louise Parker as a desperate, widowed housewife, who turns to dealing pot to support herself and her three children. The premise seems a bit thin to hang a series on, but the first episode teems with wickedly gritty social satire.

Last, but by no means least, is Kenny vs. Spenny (Sundays starting Oct. 16 at 9:30 p.m.), the wacky reality/comedy series that pits childhood chums (and polar opposites) Kenny and Spenny in a variety of weird Survivor-style competitive stunts. If that sounds weird, it's because it is.

-- CR

SPACE

Based on the recent miniseries, The 4400 (starts Sept. 18) picks up where last year's series left off. This version concentrates on the abductees' collective struggle to go on with their lives after learning the truth. In other new shows: The Supernatural (began Sept. 16) is about two hunky brothers (Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles) who drive around in their 1967 Chevy solving mysteries. The Sentinel (began Sept. 6) concerns a detective (Richard Burgi) who has heightened sensory powers, i.e., he can see people in the dark. The 5th Quadrant (began Sept. 11) spoofs the sci-fi genre with former Second City regular Lee Smart as the head of a team of paranormal investigators. And Vampire High (Oct. 16) is set in a boarding school for privileged teens who just happen to be bloodsucking vampires! Scary stuff.

In miniseries fare: 5ive Days to Midnight (began Sept. 10) is a five-part saga in which a college professor (Timothy Hutton) is forced to solve the mystery of his own murder.

-- AR

STAR!

The biggest noise over at Star! this season is the recent arrival of Star! Daily (began Sept. 6). The daily entertainment wrap-up show is hosted by Husein Madhavji, who will be joined by newcomer Danielle McGimsie and veteran reporter Larysa Harapyn.

Also new on Star! this fall: Big Hollywood Countdown (began Sept. 16) delivers a new showbiz list each Friday night -- i.e., the best-dressed stars, the biggest egos, and so forth. The Soup (Sept. 17) is the weekly roundup of celebrity news and reality-show highlights, hosted by Joel McHale. Fight for Fame (Sept. 22) is a new reality outing in which five young actors enter into a competition for a contract with a Tinseltown talent agency. And Party @ The Palms (Sept. 25) is set at the fabulous Palms Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, with host Jenny McCarthy putting guests through all sorts of unusual challenges, like playing blackjack in your underwear. Hey, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

-- AR

SUNTV

This is Toronto1 redux. The channel was rebranded earlier this month. A press release promises SunTV will "engage and connect with the city's contemporary households," but what exactly does that mean? The shows are mostly a rehash of syndicated programming: the first two seasons of 24, Charmed, The Jerry Springer Show, King of Kensington, Beachcombers, etc. New offering Freddie (Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m., starts Sept. 21) is a weak ABC sitcom starring Freddie Prinze Jr. as a chef whose bachelor life suffers when four female relatives join his household. Homemade shows include daily entertainment series Inside Jam, sports talk show The Grill Room and Street Eats, a series exploring ethnic foods-to-go in Toronto and environs. There's also a fitness show, Intimate Yoga, and Echo, which celebrates the lives of Asian, South Asian and black Torontonians.

-- CDM

TLC

The Learning Channel? Maybe it should be renamed The Voyeur Channel as the network that once inspired hits bottom with crazy reality programming. First up is That Yin Yang Thing where feuding groups try out Eastern and Western methods of dispute resolution. Beginning Oct. 4, you can watch Adam Carolla in The Adam Carolla Project as he renovates his childhood home, and goes about daily duties --- like hosting his real-life radio call-in sex show, launching a new television show and conceiving a child with his wife. There's also Maximum Disclosure, where strangers discuss addictions to drugs, adultery and eating disorders. And you won't want to miss Tuckerville that goes home with country music's original bad girl Tanya Tucker, now raising three adolescents as a single mom. Or how about Dead Tenants (Oct. 13), where psychics check out creepy homes, or Possessed Possessions, a two-hour special on Oct. 30 that has James Van Praagh communing with objects aboard the Queen Mary? On the brighter side: DaVinci Declassified debunks the novel's theories on Oct. 23.

-- CDM

TLN

English viewers may or may not be excited that Ciao Bella (started Sept. 10), the family soap opera that aired on CBC, is now running Saturday (10:30 p.m.) and Sunday (10 p.m.). Better news is that, in the spring, all 5 seasons of The Sopranos will air weeknights. Returning series include Everybody Loves Raymond and David Rocco's Dolce Vita. A new travelogue series, Visions of Italy, begins in December. Also returning: Series A and UEFA soccer matches as well as Italian Soccer Fanatics, a TLN-made show that has rabid fans argue over highlight reels.

-- CDM

TSN

Hockey is back! Watch for Chris Cuthbert to make his play-by-play debut during the network's Wednesday night games. He'll work beside colour commentator Glenn Healy. But first: September brings six prime-time hours of poker with Canada's first Texas Hold 'em Tournament (Sept. 15-24). In October, early rounds of the Mastercard Skate Canada International air (finals run on CTV); while PGA Tour events include The Championship at Las Vegas, FUNAI Classic and Chrysler Championship. There's a movie: NASCAR: The Imax Experience (Oct. 12), ATP Masters Tennis from Madrid and Paris, and more poker: the 2005 World Series of Poker starting Oct. 1. But really, TSN is just happy the NHL is back.

-- CDM

TVO

The channel devoted to "television that matters" delivers a coup with the Victorian era miniseries North and South (Nov. 8) adapted from Elizabeth Gaskell's epic love story of a displaced middle-class woman whose social conscience puts her in conflict with a wealthy cotton mill owner. In typical romance style, the two find themselves deeply attracted to each other despite their clashes. Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage, who star in what could be this season's standout costume drama, were voted best actress and actor by British viewers who also proclaimed the BBC four-part miniseries as best drama of 2004.

Returning drama series include a second season (coming in November) of New Tricks' rascally old cold case investigators and, also later this season, four new feature-length episodes of The Last Detective starring Peter Davison as sad-sack constable Dangerous Davies.

New documentary series include Himalaya with Michael Palin (Sept. 30, 7 p.m.) with the peripatetic former Monty Python star covering 3,000 miles and six countries in the world's greatest mountain range over 125 days; and five new episodes of the popular BBC great works of art series, The Private Life of a Masterpiece including Georges Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (Sept. 29, 10 p.m.) and Gustav's Klimt's The Kiss (Oct. 6).

This season of National Geographic includes Elephant Rage (Oct. 1) about India's gentle giants being turned into rampaging herds by encroaching development; The Perfect Swarm (Oct. 8), a look at devastating locust plagues; and Emperors of the Ice (Oct. 29) follows the effects of global warming on Antarctica's emperor penguins.

On Human Edge, Children of the Decree (Sept. 28, 10 p.m.) looks at the aftermath of Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceausescu's infamous decree criminalizing contraception and abortion from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Then later this season, TVO's Canadian documentary showcase The View from Here has a pair of Calling Card docs (Oct. 12), Cheating Death about a Regent Park gang member who became youth pastor, followed by 9 Months, 6 Blocks exploring urban life in Toronto's Parkdale; Women Behind the Badge (Oct. 19), a three-part film about female cops; Black Coffee (November) from the filmmaker who made The Cola Conquest; and in early 2006, memory for Max, Claire, Ida and company, which premiered at TIFF last week, a two-part doc from Allan King [Dying at Grace]about aging and memory.

HW

Saturday Night at the Movies

TVO's popular double bill in the coming weeks includes:

Sept. 17

Theme: Sam Peckinpah's West

Films: Ride the High Country (1962) and The Wild Bunch (1969)

Sept. 23

Theme: Live Fast/Die Young

50th Anniversary of James Dean's death

Films: Giant (1956) and September 30, 1955 (1977) aka 9/30/55

Oct. 1

Theme: The Cult of Hal Ashby

Films: Shampoo (1975) and The Last Detail (1973)

Oct. 8

Theme: Our Home and Native Land

Films: Little Big Man (1970) and The Searchers (1956)

Oct. 15

Theme: Documenting Comedy

Films: Waiting for Guffman (1997) and This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

October 22

Theme: Boxers Boxing

Films: Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) and Fat City (1972)

October 29

Theme: The Bad Child

Films: The Bad Seed (1956) and Heavenly Creatures (1994)

This season of National Geographic includes Elephant Rage (Oct. 1) about India's gentle giants being turned into rampaging herds by encroaching development; The Perfect Swarm (Oct. 8), a look at devastating locust plagues; and Emperors of the Ice (Oct. 29) follows the effects of global warming on Antarctica's emperor penguins.

On Human Edge, Children of the Decree (Sept. 28, 10 p.m.) looks at the aftermath of Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceausescu's infamous decree criminalizing contraception and abortion from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Then later this season, TVO's Canadian documentary showcase The View from Here has a pair of Calling Card docs (Oct. 12), Cheating Death about a Regent Park gang member who became youth pastor, followed by 9 Months, 6 Blocks exploring urban life in Toronto's Parkdale; Women Behind the Badge (Oct. 19), a three-part film about female cops; Black Coffee (November) from the filmmaker who made The Cola Conquest; and in early 2006, memory for Max, Claire, Ida and company, which premiered at TIFF last week, a two-part doc from Allan King [Dying at Grace]about aging and memory.

-- HW

þcontinued on page 62

Saturday Night at the Movies

TVO's popular double bill in the coming weeks includes:

Sept. 17

Theme: Sam Peckinpah's West

Films: Ride the High Country (1962) and The Wild Bunch (1969)

Sept. 23

Theme: Live Fast/Die Young

50th Anniversary of James Dean's death

Films: Giant (1956) and September 30, 1955 (1977) aka 9/30/55

Oct. 1

Theme: The Cult of Hal Ashby

Films: Shampoo (1975) and The Last Detail (1973)

Oct. 8

Theme: Our Home and Native Land

Films: Little Big Man (1970) and The Searchers (1956)

Oct. 15

Theme: Documenting Comedy

Films: Waiting for Guffman (1997) and This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

October 22

Theme: Boxers Boxing

Films: Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) and Fat City (1972)

October 29

Theme: The Bad Child

Films: The Bad Seed (1956) and Heavenly Creatures (1994)

VISION

The Naked Archaeologist (Monday, 9:30 p.m.) launched earlier this month. It follows Simcha Jacobovici, a well-regarded documentary filmmaker with a passion for Biblical archeology, in his intriguing travels around the globe. Jacobovici possesses an impishly irreverent attitude as he investigates new finds and asks unasked questions like: Was Jezebel really that sexy? From Britain comes Distant Shores (Wednesdays, 9 p.m., started Sept. 14), a fish-out-of-water series starring Peter Davison as a misanthropic surgeon. Also new to Vision: the classic British series Yes, Minister (Wednesdays, started Sept. 7, 8 p.m.) and vintage American series, The Flying Nun and e Courtship of Eddie's Father. Returning homegrown shows include 360 Vision, with a new segment called The Heretics; and Credo, which will see guests such as former politician Svend Robinson, chef Susur Lee and opera singer Measha Brueggergosman open up about their lives.

-- CDM

W

The former Women's Network has made a few additions to its schedule for the new season -- most notably How Clean is Your House? (began Sept. 5). The engaging series finds British TV personalities Kim Woodburn and Aggie MacKenzie pressed into service as regular dirt detectives. Each episode follows the dotty duo as they go through an American domicile -- some of which are positively filthy -- and then offer up their best cleaning tips.

Also landing on W this fall: Save Us From Our House (starts Oct. 13), in which a relationship counselor, a contractor and an interior designer come to the rescue of families in need of home-design makeovers; and Between the Sheets with Rebecca Rosenblatt (began Sept. 11), a new series that offers up useful advice to those couples looking to spice up their own intimate encounters, yowza.

The network will also bolster their stockpile of previously-aired series for this coming fall season. Most notably, W is adding the cable sitcom Fat Actress (starts Nov. 6), starring Kirstie Alley, to their schedule this fall. In the series, which debuted on Showtime in the U.S. last spring, the former Cheers star plays a supersized version of, well, Kirstie Alley. Returning series include Arresting Design, Colour Confidential, Cash in the Attic, Divine Design, Gilmore Girls, Judging Amy, Me, My House and I with Brigitte Gall, Most Haunted, Style by Jury and Shopping Bags. Whew!

-- AR

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