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Weekend viewing: confusing comedy, criminal confessions

60 Minutes

Sunday, 7 p.m., CBS, CHCH

The big deal on this week's program is the first interview with Ruth Madoff, wife of jailed fraudster Bernard. Already, CBS News has reported that Madoff explains that she and her husband attempted suicide when his financial crimes were exposed. The show promises "many previously undisclosed revelations about the family in the aftermath of the scandal. Viewers will hear for the first time how and where Bernard Madoff confessed his crimes to his loved ones, their reaction and the subsequent family strife of the past three years." Also interviewed is Madoff's son, Andrew. Viewers of the TV series Damages may find this 60 Minutes especially interesting, as a recent season of Damages focused closely on a Madoff-like family and its internal machinations. Truth is stranger than fiction? Let's see.

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Extraordinary Canadians

Sunday, 8:30 p.m., CITY-TV

This series, one of those all-too-rare explorations of Canadian history and culture on TV these days, has prominent Canadian figures dwelling for 30 minutes on the life and achievements of important figures from our past. On this one, Adrienne Clarkson looks at Norman Bethune, a figure who might well be considered a lightning rod in a culture-war perspective on Canadian history. He was, after all, devoted to socialized medicine and saved lives during revolutions in Spain and China. Later programs in the series (which is allied with a series of Penguin books going by the same title; the series also airs on Biography Channel Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.) feature Margaret MacMillan on Stephen Leacock and David Adams Richards on Lord Beaverbrook. Next spring, in another of those all-too-rare moves, the series will air in multiple languages – Mandarin, Italian, and Hindi – on OMNI Television.

Allen Gregory

Sunday, 8:30 p.m., Fox, Global

The latest in Fox's stable of animated comedies is about seven-year-old Allen Gregory (voiced by Jonah Hill), an obnoxious kid with the mind and pretensions of a bitchy, middle-aged know-it-all. He lives with his two dads, who dote on him. Occasionally they also pay attention to Julie, his hardnosed, adopted Cambodian sister. In the opening episode, he goes to school for the first time, drinks Pinot Grigio, flirts with the headmistress and generally goes crazy. Allen is meant to be monumentally insufferable. The thing is, you aren't sure what exactly is being satirized here. Is this kid a send-up of urban liberals (he watches Charlie Rose on TV and mentions that a lot) or is the target those around him who don't understand him? Throw in the fart jokes and it's a very confusing comedy.

America in Primetime

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Sunday, 10 p.m., PBS

This fascinating but meandering look at the archetypes of U.S. television begins with how the image of women and mothers has shifted over the decades. What makes the series an oddity is the absence of the usual talking heads who comment on pop culture. Most of the commentary comes from the creative side of Hollywood – writers, actors, producers. "Fifties television made me feel good," says movie director David Lynch, pithily, in praise of shows such as Leave it to Beaver. It all starts with a sweeping exploration of how the "model housewives" of the 1950s gave way to more complex and controversial characters such as Roseanne Barr's character on Roseanne and the Murphy Brown character played by Candice Bergen. Barr and Bergen offer analysis, along with Eva Longoria from Desperate Housewives and Robert and Michelle King, creators of The Good Wife. Later episodes dwell on how dad figures evolved from The Honeymooners to The Sopranos.

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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