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Pageants, video awards and the case of the maddening mystery

Witness Protection

Saturday, HBO Canada, 8 p.m.

This made-for-HBO drama from 1999 is about Bobby "Bats" Batton (Tom Sizemore) who is connected, vaguely, to the mob. He's a decent guy but knows about money disappearing. When the mob tries to assassinate him and fails, he goes into the FBI's witness-protection program, with his entire family. He's going to testify against those who tried to kill him. This is not, however, a drama about gang violence and cops. It's about the enormous stress put on an ordinary middle-class family forced to go into hiding and erase its own past. What, for instance, happens to a gifted teenager expecting to get into a good university? Will his record be erased, and what will be his prospects? Almost all the action takes place inside a house where the family is kept. Arguments ensue and boil over. The fragility of family life is revealed. It's well done, although Sizemore - then still thought of as a very promising actor - overdoes the emotional-trauma acting.

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The 2011 Miss USA Pageant

Sunday, NBC, 9 p.m.

Oh Lordy. This is the Donald Trump-owned pageant, not Miss America, take note. And this is the 60th anniversary of the Miss USA pageant (the Miss America one is 90 years old), which means big celebrations. Or something. It is held at "the Theatre for the Performing Arts in Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino" in Las Vegas. The reigning Miss USA, one Rima Fakih, will crown the new champ. (Are they called "champs"? I've no idea.) People named Andy Cohen and Giuliana Rancic are the hosts. These pageant things are now great curiosities, valuable not for bizarre insights into the U.S. culture, but for their camp delirium. For instance, Fakih has been at the centre of controversy this week. She was late for something and, as "security tapes" shown on ABC's Good Morning America revealed, she returned to her New York apartment one morning at 4 a.m.! In her defence, Fakih said, "I wasn't doing anything illegal. I have to remind people that whomever is crowned Miss USA isn't totally perfect - and never will be." Spoken like a champ.

2011 MuchMusic Video Awards

Sunday, MuchMusic, 9 p.m.

More hyped these days than the Academy Awards, the annual music-video awards this year are co-hosted by Selena Gomez, with various Much VJs. The performers include Bruno Mars, the Black Keys, Avril Lavigne and City and Colour. But, more about Gomez - this job "will come just over a week after she was rushed to the hospital, reportedly suffering from malnourishment and exhaustion. She has been released and given the 'OK' to commence with Sunday's gig," says MuchMusic. Can she do it? There's a puzzle. And, wait, that's not all. Gomez is Justin Bieber's gal pal, if the celebrity-following media is to be believed. According to MuchMusic, "For some of the fans, they're just excited at the prospect of Bieber showing up at the MMVAs unannounced to support his girlfriend." Little wonder this thing is, like, bigger than the Oscars. Watch with the kids. It's more fun than beauty pageants.

The Killing

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Sunday, AMC, 10 p.m.

It's the Season 1 finale tonight. The Killing has been one maddening drama over its many, rain-drenched hours. At times shockingly slow, gripping and chillingly sober, it wandered off at times into the territory of specious family drama. That's when we began to know too much about detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and her background. At first, her grave stare was the show's anchor motif. As the series ends - it will return next year - the twisted, heartbreaking plot comes to its mad end. Who killed Rosie Larsen (Katie Findlay)? Surely not councilman Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell)? Surely not the obviously weird millionaire who backed his campaign? No matter what happens, Linden and homicide cop Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) will take it slowly, first mistaking the unusual for the sinister, as we all do. The greatness of the series is in that adherence to the mundane, to the creepy banality of evil and the unbearable horror of the loss of a child.

Check local listings.

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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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