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Archive for Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More primal drama in ‘Monkey City’

February 24, 2009

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I don’t want to start trouble, but the Screen Actors Guild should worry about Animal Planet. The network has made a habit of fashioning deeply involving melodramas out of nature footage. I’m not a betting man, but I’d guess more people cried when Flower died on “Meerkat Manor” than cared about the fate of anyone bumped off on “CSI: Miami.” On the other hand, some of those meerkats were far more emotive than David Caruso.

The new series “Dark Days in Monkey City” (9 p.m., Animal Planet) takes the genre in a new direction. While “Meerkat” looked like “Wild Kingdom” crossed with “I, Claudius,” “Dark Days” marries nature footage with graphic-novel-style animation. Evoking dark, brooding, guy-centric epics from “300” to, well, “12 Monkeys,” this series follows rival tribes of macaques as they fight for food and to remain at the top of the power pyramid near an abandoned Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka.

John Rhys-Davies provides the always-ominous narration. He should be happy to get the gig. With higher primates stealing the dramatic roles, the real dark days seem to have descended upon the acting profession.

• “Independent Lens” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) presents “The Order of Myths,” a fascinating look at Mardi Gras festivities in Mobile, Ala., the oldest in the country, dating back to 1703.

The director, a former Mardi Gras queen, uses the tradition to examine her native city’s racial and class divisions as well as ways that the Mardi Gras may bridge those social chasms.

Note, in many markets, this film may be pre-empted by the president’s speech and resulting commentary/ coverage. Check local listings for later airings on PBS. It’s well worth watching. And happy Mardi Gras, y’all.

• Nate returns to the surface on the season finale of “Leverage” (9 p.m., TNT). The entire season runs all day in marathon fashion (9 a.m., TNT).

Tonight’s other highlights

• Polemicist Michael Moore looks at healthcare in America in the 2007 documentary “Sicko” (5:45 p.m., Showtime).

• A murder appears to be a work of art on “Bones” (7 p.m., Fox).

• A month into his administration, President Barack Obama makes an address to Congress (8 p.m., ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, Fox News).

• Mike recalls his first 200 “Dirty Jobs” (8 p.m., Discovery).

• David Alan Grier hosts “Black to the Future” (8 p.m., VH1), a tongue-in-cheek survey of black contributions to American popular culture.

• A swamp-buggy race unfolds on “Wreckreation Nation” (9 p.m., Discovery).

• Eyewitnesses to a murder bring very different perspectives in the 1950 Japanese-language classic “Rashomon” (9 p.m., TCM), directed by Akira Kurosawa.

Cult choice

Everyone’s gym-class anxieties inspired the 2004 comedy “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” (7 p.m., FX), starring Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn.

Series notes

Murder clues lay buried in the sand on “NCIS” (7 p.m., CBS) ... The scales tell the tale on “Biggest Loser: Couples” (7 p.m., NBC) ... Suspicious watercraft on “Homeland Security: USA” (7 p.m., ABC) ... Secrets and lies on “90210” (7 p.m., CW) ... Kathy Griffin guest stars on the season finale of “Privileged” (9 p.m., CW).

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