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Seven Days of Television: January 13 to January 19

A select viewing guide to the next seven days of television

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MONDAY JANUARY 13 Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne (A&E, 10 p.m.) Buckle up for the latest reality offering from the A&E network. This new show follows the daily routine of professional illusionist Andrew Mayne, who has worked behind the scenes to create hundreds of breathtaking feats for David Copperfield, Penn & Teller and other professional magicians. In this setup, Mayne employs his unique skills of legerdemain to help regular folk pull off pranks on unsuspecting loved ones. In tonight’s opener, he helps out a desperate woman whose husband never kept his promise to stop riding motorcycles once they got married. Get out the body bags.

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TUESDAY JANUARY 14 Bad Day at Black Rock (TCM, 10:30 p.m. ET) For a movie made nearly six decades ago, this 1955 drama has lost none of its visceral impact. The late, great Spencer Tracy commands viewer attention as Macreedy, a one-armed man who steps off a train in the remote town of Black Rock in the middle of the Arizona desert. The peaceful Macreedy has come looking for a Japanese-American man named Kamoko, but is brushed off by the local sheriff (Dean Jagger) and openly threatened by the town bully Reno (Robert Ryan). With the help of kindly Liz (Anne Francis), Macreedy finally locates the Kamoko homestead and is shocked to find it burned to the ground. The reasons behind the torch-job reveal a powerful fifties-era snapshot of racial intolerance in America.

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WEDNESDAY JANUARY 15 American Idol (Fox, CTV Two, 8 p.m.) By now a January tradition, primetime’s most extravagant karaoke contest kicks off its 13 th season with a brand-new crop of singing hopefuls and, naturally, new judges. Last year, the contestants had to sing before judges Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Randy Jackson. The only one back this season is Urban, who is joined on the panel by returning judge Jennifer Lopez and newcomer Harry Connick Jr. Tonight’s two-hour opener documents the audition process in Boston and Austin, Texas, and naturally most of the screen time will go to those warblers who should never be on the stage in the first place. The indefatigable Ryan Seacrest returns to host.

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THURSDAY JANUARY 16 The Nature of Things (CBC, 8 p.m.) Remember a little thing called “The Black Death”? Way back in the 14 th century, the lethal disease that began with the spitting of blood and ended a few days later with blackened extremities and death erased half the population of Europe – more than 50-million people. This smart new documentary follows the efforts of evolutionary biologist Hendrik Poinar, who is based at Hamilton’s McMaster University, to lead an international team on a quest to uncover the secrets of the Black Death. His trek takes him to a top-secret lab somewhere in the U.S. and a foreboding repository containing more than 20,000 sets of human remains in London, England. Poinar’s mission: Unlock the secrets of the deadly disease in hopes of saving future lives.

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FRIDAY JANUARY 17 Bones (Fox, Global, 8 p.m.) Still drawing healthy ratings in its ninth season, Fox’s low-key crime procedural remains appointment viewing for many viewers each Friday night. In tonight’s new outing, FBI guy Booth (David Boreanaz) and forensics genius Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and their team of lab rats tuck into the mysterious death of a country singer whose remains were discovered in a shallow grave. Does the fact that the victim was hugely popular in the Philippines factor into the investigation? Of course it does.

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SATURDAY JANUARY 18 Lifeboat (TCM, 8 p.m. ET) Although this 1944 nailbiter probably isn’t the most revered entry in the Alfred Hitchcock film canon, it’s still the best movie offering on a slow Saturday night. The entire story takes place in one tiny lifeboat that has been set adrift somewhere in the North Atlantic following a Nazi torpedo attack. The occupants: snooty magazine writer Constance (Tallulah Bankhead), seaman Kovac (John Hodiak), nurse Alice (Mary Anderson), dense radio operator Stan (Hume Cronyn), wounded sailor Gus (William Bendix), rich jerk Charles (Henry Hull), African-American steward George (Canada Lee) and the slightly unhinged young mother Mrs. Higgins (Heather Angel), whose infant has already perished at sea. After days of floating aimlessly, the group picks up another castaway survivor: A German U-boat crewman named Willy (Walter Slezak). As the boatmates gradually turn on each other, the story slowly comes together in typical creeping Hitchcockian fashion.

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SUNDAY JANUARY 19 The Passionate Eye: Ethel and the Kennedys (CBC News Network, 10 p.m.) Touching and real, this profile of Ethel Kennedy was assembled by her filmmaker daughter Rory, who was born shortly after her father Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968. The documentary features candid interviews with the now 85-year-old Ethel – who has lived a near-reclusive existence the past two decades – and several members of her 11 children. There’s also rare home movies and dozens of heretofore-unseen photographs that tells the story of the woman whose unflagging spirit kept the family together in the face of tragedy.

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