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Weekend TV: If you don't know Niecy, you will


Saturday, CTV, 7 p.m.

The main investigation this week involves people scammed by shady companies offering discount vacations and hotel rooms for a membership fee. First we meet a man named Matteo who joined an outfit called Club Par Excellence, which promised cheap trips and a free vacation for new members who paid a big fee. Almost immediately, Matteo discovered there was no free trip. "The dream of average Canadians" is how Victor Malarek describes the lure of the vacation scams. Malarek also discovers that although a branch of the Ontario government believed it had put several of these scamming organizations out of business, many continue to exist and attempt the same scam over and over. They just change the company name. This cautionary tale warns us against promises of cheap holidays in the sun and against the belief that government regulations protect us.

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Mad Men

Sunday, AMC, 8 p.m.

This is the main event of the weekend, no question. And the gist is this, according to AMC: "Pete and Roger butt heads, and Joan clashes with a houseguest." That's the one-sentence synopsis. But it's been 17 months since the last original episode of Mad Men aired and anticipation – especially media anticipation – is at a near-hysterical level. When we last met the characters, Don Draper shocked his colleagues and viewers with his announcement that he was marrying his secretary, Megan (so beautifully played by Canadian Jessica Paré). That suggested change and Mad Men is always about change – about how people strive to grow, but cannot. It is the U.S. of the 1960s that changes and drags the characters along with it. There is much possibility in this new season but it would be a mistake to dwell on superficial shifts. Possibly a key character is Don's ex-wife Betty, whose journey through the decade has been the most fraught. After all, she seems to loathe her children. No matter what happens to the central characters though, Mad Men is about work, about labouring with ideas and notions, and about the profound complications of life at the office.

Leave it to Niecy

Sunday, TLC, 10 p.m.

TLC has a knack of finding reality TV stars, so prepare for ubiquity in the case of Carol Denise "Niecy" Nash, a comedian, actress, Dancing with the Stars contestant and, previously, host of Clean House on the Style Network. Apparently Niecy – who is given to proclaiming "Come on ya'll, lets talk about love!" – married a fella named Jay Tucker and they both already had kids. Thus this show, dubbed "TV's First Reality Sitcom" by TLC, is about Niecy's efforts to get everybody to act as one big, all-together family. The kids aren't into it that much, it turns out. As one dyspeptic teen points out with a sigh, unlike other reality TV families, they don't have "divorces and baby dramas going on." Hilarity and forced family stuff ensues, as Niecy laughs a lot.

Putin, Russia and the West

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Sunday, CBC NN 10 p.m. on The Passionate Eye

This new doc, made for the BBC and National Geographic channels, promises "a shockingly revealing look inside the relationship between Russia and the West, as told by ultimate insiders." From what is available in advance it is not so much "shockingly revealing" as it is a strange trip into the intricacies of modern diplomacy. On the one hand, it's about Vladimir Putin's relationship with many Western leaders. On the other hand, it tries in vain to explain what it calls "Putin's iron grip on power." In both cases it seems that Putin emerges as unknowable. We're told that he gave a prophetic warning to George W. Bush, about the Taliban in Afghanistan, some months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We're also told about his scheming, his need for control and it is speculated that he is now "vulnerable." Well, as Boney M sighed in a song about Rasputin, "Oh, those Russians."

All times ET. 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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