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Whither the sitcom? Don't laugh. Last fall we were inundated with new shows, and most of the hype was about female-centric shows. Comedies by, for and about women. Strong women, to be precise.

In the midst of that onslaught, a curiosity was cancelled – a show about a girly man who learns to be a macho man from a lug who is willing to teach him. In the background, several snippety women add bite to the rum proceedings. It just didn't fly with viewers or the network. Pity.

How to Be a Gentleman (Saturday, CBS, 8 p.m., 8:30 p.m.) is that show. CBS is now airing the episodes it put on the shelf when it canned the show. And it's worth your time. (Also, there's not a lot that's new this weekend.)

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The central character is Andrew Carlson (David Hornsby) who writes an etiquette column for a men's magazine that's now on the skids. "I am one of the last of my kind," he announces early on. "I open the door for ladies, but I am not a doorman. I put out cigarettes, but I am not a cigarette putter-out man."

His sister, Janet, played by the wonderful Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe on 24) counters with, "You're fussy, you talk weird and you dress like a ship's captain." Janet is actually more male that Andrew – rude, sarcastic and believing that etiquette is for idiots. Stuff happens. The magazine gets new owners. Its editor, Jerry (Dave Foley), instructs Andrew to dumb down his column to appeal to thirty-something guys who act like they're 15 years old.

So, Andrew persuades an old nemesis from high school, Bert (Kevin Dillon from Entourage), to teach him how to be a modern, rough-hewn guy – how to work out and pick up chicks and stuff. Dillon is very good as the lug, and some fine jokes are sprayed around the show. Mainly, perhaps, this show failed on CBS because the network already has a passel of very successful and cruder sitcoms. Anyone expecting the barking oafishness of Two and Half Men will be disappointed by the light touch of the wit.

The show was created by Hornsby (from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and it's loosely based on John Bridges's 1998 book How to Be a Gentleman: A Contemporary Guide to Common Courtesy. The book, mind you, is not a joke. It's a real guide to courtesy for men. What happens on the sitcom is nifty subversion of the Maxim magazine view of life. And it's good fun.

Also airing this weekend

Harry's Law (Sunday, NBC, 8 p.m.), starring Kathy Bates as Harry, has also been cancelled and will be much missed by many. Fans love its broad humour, one characteristic of David E. Kelley's shows ( Boston Legal, Ally McBeal). In the finale, Harry's ex-husband is found dead, and no one is around to claim the body.

Continuum (Sunday, Showcase, 9 p.m.) is a new sci-fi-ish drama, made in Vancouver, about "a detective from the year 2077 [who]finds herself trapped in present-day Vancouver and searching for ruthless criminals from the future." Who'd complain about being "trapped" in Vancouver? Anyway, it seems to feature very cool-looking young actors. Rachel Nichols (Ashley on Criminal Minds) plays the lead cop, Kiera, and the director is veteran Jon Cassar ( 24, The Kennedys).

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Secrets of Bin Laden's Lair (Sunday, Discovery, 9 p.m.) promises to reveal "the surprising contents within Osama bin Laden's computers, and personal papers that were confiscated when he was killed in 2011." Because the first thing that occurred to those who stormed his lair was, "OMG! There's a Discovery Channel special right there."



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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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