W5 Saturday, CTV, 7 p.m.
It's a juicy one this week - a full hour on the case of a Canadian businessman who was defrauded of millions and sought vigilante justice, using kidnapping and extortion, and attempted to hire a hit man to exact revenge. Alberta-based Nick Djokich lost a lot of money and Canadian authorities weren't much help. And he was beyond angry. He was obsessed. Instead of retiring, he and his wife faced the prospect of finding jobs. The program begins with an audio tape of the bitter man talking to what he believed to be a hit man, in Boston. The man says of the target, "We pick him up. He doesn't come back. He's a dead man." Soon we learn that the hit man was a U.S. agent. An investigating officer says of Djokich, "I can understand how he got there. But, crossing the line …" Victor Malarek then traces the case back to its beginning, interviewing Djokich's family and even his priest.
A Lesson Before Dying Saturday, HBO Canada, 8 p.m.
This strong HBO movie is an adaptation of the book by Ernest J. Gaines of the same title, a bestseller and Oprah's book club pick. It's a tough-minded tale about Jefferson (Mekhi Phifer), a young black farm labourer in 1940s Louisiana. One day he is in the wrong place at the wrong time, the witness to a triple homicide. He is accused and convicted of the crime. At trial, his lawyer makes an extraordinary pitch to save the young man from the death penalty. He suggests it would be like sending a hog to its death. It is an act of stunning humiliation for the accused and he is still sentenced to die. His godmother (Irma P. Hall) and her friend Tante Lou (Cicely Tyson) set out to ensure Jefferson achieves some semblance of self-respect before dying. They persuade a reluctant local teacher (Don Cheadle) to take educate Jefferson in the jailhouse. Those encounters are alive with bitter, powerful arguments that reach toward some understanding of the Deep South and the situation in which Jefferson finds himself.
Ryan's Renaissance Sunday, Bravo!, 7 p.m.
An emotional and captivating doc, this one revisits the stunning and painful story of Ryan Larkin, the gifted young animator and NFB star who was an Oscar nominee for Walking in 1969 but whose life went downhill from there. Alcohol overwhelmed him and he ended up homeless. He was the subject of an outstanding film called Ryan, which won filmmaker Chris Landreth an Oscar. Larkin died of cancer in 2007 and this new work, by Laurie Gordon and Nicola Zavaglia, documents his last work, on a short film called Spare Change. It also delves into his background and it truly brings to life an unforgettable character, a genius who ended up being familiar to many in Montreal as the "unofficial" doorman at Schwartz's Deli on the Main. We meet a man who was strange, generous, witty, irascible and creative to the end. His renaissance was brief but memorable.
The Kennedy Saga Sunday, CBC NN, 10 p.m.
We are in the midst of a Kennedy revival, for some reason. Soon, we'll see the mini-series about the family, the production dropped by its U.S. broadcaster for murky reasons. Recently, TLC aired a Kennedy home-movies special. Here we get a moody, nearing-art portrait of the family. Made by French filmmaker Patrick Jeudy ( Marilyn: The Last Sessions and Grace Kelly: Destiny of a Princess), it creates its own perspective of the Kennedy clan, using the memories of household staff who cared for the children in the 1960s. Thus we get a kind of cool and ironic but vaguely lurid portrait, one that hints rather than sneers. Mostly it's about the children who lived through the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and then Bobby Kennedy and whose experience of being a Kennedy changed radically through those years and events. CBC calls this production "a family portrait which may be nostalgic - but pulls no punches." That isn't quite true. It's suggestive and prickly, not hostile.
Check local listings.