"Heavy Load" (8 p.m., IFC) can be enjoyed on many levels. It's a profile of a band composed of three learning-disabled talents from group homes and two of their social workers. In addition to raucous covers of the "Batman" theme and "Wipeout," they create odes to staying up all night and a curious celebration of singer George Michael.
Director Jerry Rothwell confesses that he was at a low moment in his life when he discovered Heavy Load and that they brought him so much joy that he couldn't help but document them, if only to spend more time in their presence.
But what begins as an upbeat - but never condescending - look at a group of disabled musicians becomes something more profound. The presence of the camera crew changes Heavy Load for both the better and the worse. At times, it's the "Let It Be" of disabled punk band documentaries, complete with acrimony, dissension and sudden departures.
"Heavy Load" ends on an upbeat note, with the band championing a movement for greater social mobility for the handicapped. They are also embraced by musicians as diverse as punk legend Wreckless Eric and pop diva Kylie Minogue.
"Heavy Load" is a touching movie for people who can't stand touching movies and a reminder that punk rock, at its purest and simplest, has always given voice to sensitive souls on society's margins.
¢ The best documentaries introduce us to people and ideas we've never encountered. "Emile Norman - By His Own Design" (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) profiles a self-taught California artist whose public murals have become San Francisco landmarks and whose work was championed by New York critics and appeared in Hollywood movies.
The child of California ranchers, he taught himself to sculpt at age 11, ruining his father's carpentry tools in the process. A gay man in the 1940s, he chose to live with his life partner and business partner, Brooks Clement. Together, they transcended the public homophobia of the era and created an artist's enclave that helped define the bohemian mystique of the Big Sur area.
More than a portrait of an artist or a Gay Pride Month profile, this enlightening documentary celebrates Norman as that singularly American archetype, the rugged individual.
¢ Yikes, somebody's already nostalgic for "Who Let the Dogs Out?" "I Love the New Millennium" (VH1) looks back at the pop hits and misses from 2000 (8 p.m.) and 2001 (9 p.m.) and will examine recent fare right up to 2007 during the next four nights.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ A rural route to the morgue on "Bones" (7 p.m., Fox).
¢ Terra cotta terror on "The Middleman" (7 p.m., Family).
¢ Jewel helps separate the gems from the rhinestones on "Nashville Star" (8 p.m., NBC).
¢ A patient talks to the dead and insists that they can hear on "House" (8 p.m., Fox).
¢ Archaeologists offer a whole new understanding of Egypt's ancient wonders on "The Lost Pyramid" (8 p.m., History).
¢ "Hard Times at Douglass High" (8 p.m., HBO) examines the legacy of the No Child Left Behind policy.
¢ Rehab can be a killer on "CSI: Miami" (9 p.m., CBS).