How do you top “Survivorman”? “Beyond Survival with Les Stroud” (9 p.m., Discovery) takes the emphasis off Les and his individual feats and allows viewers to share the habits and cultures of exotic and remote indigenous tribes.
In Sri Lanka, Stroud goes “stick fishing,” a technique dating back at least 10,000 years. The massive tsunami of 2004 proved to be a triple curse to Sri Lanka’s ancient way of life. More than half of the island’s fishermen were killed; the nearby fish population was destroyed or dispersed; and the next generation of fishermen were made relatively “rich” by an outpouring of international aid and have little interest in their father’s ancient trade. So we learn how one storm can devastate a culture dating back to the edge of history.
Over the course of the season, Stroud visits with Madagascar’s Antanosy tribe and travels with the San people of the Kalahari desert who believe that their trance dances enable them to communicate with the spiritual realm.
Some of these remote tribal people have not been documented for decades. Stroud puts great emphasis on the many threats to their ancient customs and traditions, so it’s not his “Survival” at stake in this series.
• After a season of collision and confrontation, the documentary series “Whale Wars” (8 p.m., Animal Planet) concludes with a two-hour installment. Immediately following this finale, Animal Planet introduces “Blood Dolphins” (10 p.m., Animal Planet). It follows Richard (Ric) O’Barry, a member of Earth Island Institute’s Marine Mammal Team and the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove,” about an annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins that takes place in the remote, picturesque city of Tajii, Japan.
“The Cove” sparked international outrage and O’Barry returns to Tajii, only to find that the killing has continued and the opposition to their crusade has grown more fierce. “The Cove” will make its basic cable debut on Animal Planet on Sunday.
“Blood Dolphins” moves to 8 p.m. beginning next Friday. In future episodes, Ric O’Barry and his filmmaker son Lincoln venture off to the remote Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, a major crossroads in the dolphin trade.
Tonight’s other highlights
• David Hasselhoff hosts “The Gulf is Back” (7 p.m., CW), a musical tribute to the Gulf region taped live during two days of free concerts held in Biloxi, Miss.
• The New Orleans Saints host the San Diego Chargers in NFL preseason action (7 p.m., CBS).
• NFL veteran (and star of “Dancing with the Stars”) Emmitt Smith looks for his family’s roots on “Who Do You Think You Are?” (7 p.m., NBC).
l•God (Morgan Freeman) lets a disgruntled newscaster (Jim Carrey) assume his divine duties, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston) in the 2003 comedy “Bruce Almighty” (7 p.m., Fox).
• Director Spike Lee returns to New Orleans in the 2010 documentary “If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise” (7 p.m., HBO).
• Carter and company can’t shake old faces on “Eureka” (8 p.m., Syfy).
• A town in mourning on “Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town” (9 p.m., IFC).
• An ominous spirit haunts a hospital on “Haven” (9 p.m., Syfy).
• Jack believes he can fulfill Tom’s vision of a cathedral filled with light on the finale of “Pillars of the Earth” (9 p.m., Starz).