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Archive for Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day programs from silly to somber

April 22, 2010

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Nickelodeon celebrates the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day with a special episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants” (7 p.m., Nickelodeon).

In this environmentally conscious romp, Bob and Patrick are devastated to discover that a new superhighway will be built, destroying their favorite hangout, Jellyfish Fields. Their attempts to raise awareness and fight the project runs into the brick wall of general indifference as well as the highway’s popularity with all of the local residents. The crusading duo also discovers that some interested parties will do anything to protect their interests.

The episode includes the ridiculously catchy “Jellyfish Song” as well as “Give Jellyfish Fields a Chance,” a nod to the Beatles-influenced music and protest songs of the 1960s.

• The environmental awareness of the first Earth Day in 1970 came just before the energy crisis of 1973, an oil shortage that many thought would provide the impetus for Americans to switch to alternative fuels. Four decades later, we’re still having the same conversation. “Beyond the Barrel: The Race to Fuel the Future” (7 p.m., CNBC) brings us up-to-date.

“Beyond” visits communities in the American West that have become solar-power boomtowns. The ingredients required for battery power have made Bolivia suddenly a crucial provider, and China has emerged as a major producer of high-tech green technology.

On a related note, “Future Earth: Addicted to Power” (10 p.m., MSNBC) examines emerging threats to America’s energy supply. Sam Waterston hosts.

Back in 1973, the price of oil increased fourfold when OPEC nations turned off the spigot. Future crises will have more to do with demand than supply. According to “Future Earth,” our reliance on foreign oil will certainly run up against increased demand from emerging economies, notably China and India.

• In the decade after Earth Day, popular culture responded to ecological concerns with an infestation of over-the-top natural disaster movies, from “Earthquake” to “The Swarm.” In 2004, director Roland Emmerich dusted off the concept and added a global-warming theme with the disaster epic “The Day After Tomorrow” (7 p.m., FX), featuring scenes of apocalyptic havoc not to be topped until Emmerich’s own “2012.”

Tonight’s other highlights

• Fans of professional football both on the field and in their fantasy realm should not miss round one of the NFL Draft (6:30 p.m., ESPN).

• A Shark’s stomach offers a bounty of evidence on “Bones” (7 p.m., Fox).

• Mark organizes a search for Demetri on “FlashForward” (7 p.m., ABC).

• Andy woos Erin on Secretary’s Day on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).

• A winner emerges on “Project Runway” (9 p.m., Lifetime).

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