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John Doyle: What to watch if you don’t give a fig about Super Bowl madness

The Super Bowl (Sunday, CBS, CTV, 6:30 p.m.) is a ratings monster. Hardly any broadcaster competes with it. Except PBS, because fans of Downton Abbey (Sunday, PBS, 9 p.m.) do not give a fig or a tinker's cuss about the Panthers or the Broncos. By Jove, no.

The game goes on for hours. And hours. Coldplay at halftime. Woo hoo! Or not, really. Far as I can tell, Super Bowl 50 will be the last time that Canadian advertisers can buy Canadian-only Super Bowl spots.

A CRTC ruling means that, from next year, Canadian TV will show exactly the same ads as in the United States. According to IPG Mediabrands, the "simsub" system puts $250-million annually into Canada's broadcast system. So, that fight isn't over. And by the way, the same company says that research shows Canadians are rooting for the Broncos. Woo hoo! If you give a fig.

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If you don't care, in that lofty, Downton Abbey kind of way, no worries. There are other programs this weekend, and alternatives. Yes, there are.

Puppy Bowl XII (Sunday, Animal Planet, 3 p.m.) is the granddaddy of offshoot alternative shows. The puppies are from 44 different animal shelters and rescue organizations across the United States and form #TeamRuff and #TeamFluff. It is what it is – goofy, pun-filled pandemonium as the critters run around and fall over. It is preceded by a ridiculously hyperbolic pregame show in which speculation about this year's MVP (Most Valuable Puppy) is rampant.

The halftime show features kitties, I gather, which might be more palatable than Coldplay's caterwauling in the other Bowl event.

Manson's Lost Girls (Saturday, Lifetime Canada, 8 p.m.) is a new TV-movie about the women who fell under the sway of Charles Manson. Jeff Ward stars as Manson and plays him as a ruthlessly manipulative con artist. But it's really about the young women drawn to him and who eventually did his bidding in the brutal 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders. The story is told from the perspective of Linda Kasabian (Mackenzie Mauzy) who later received immunity after turning state's evidence against Manson and his followers, and the narrative is based on her testimony.

The movie is solid but straightforward. One of those in the genre that illuminates the vast gulf between ordinary and greatness – this one has nothing like the subtle, layered, expansive storytelling that is in The People v. O.J. Simpson.

It does have a gimmick, though – many of the cast are the daughters of well-known actors. Eden Brolin, whose dad is Josh Brolin, plays Susan Atkins and Greer Grammer, daughter of Kelsey Grammer, is Leslie Van Houten. And Christian Madsen (son of Michael Madsen and Jeannine Bisignano) plays Tex Watson, another member of the Manson family. Odd sort of gimmick, really.

Grace Victoria Cox, who isn't the daughter of a famous actor, but played the mysterious, blank-faced Melanie on Under the Dome, plays the key role of Lynette (Squeaky) Fromme.

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Tyson (Saturday, HBO Canada, 7:05 p.m.) is an HBO production from 1995 that tells the story of the tumultuous life of heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson. It's a smart movie, not a lurid exposé of Tyson and his troubles.

Michael Jai White, then best known as a former kickboxing champ, plays Tyson, and he portrays him as a chillingly unstable man. This Tyson is a man inured to fear in the ring because of a long history of teenaged criminal convictions and a seething temper. George C. Scott plays the crusty old trainer who takes Tyson off the streets and ignores his mental state. Paul Winfield plays Don King as a coarsely manipulative man who feeds off Tyson's freakishly fragile ego.

It's much better than your average quickie about a celebrity – the adult tone presumes the audience is familiar with the seamy side of boxing.

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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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