In the legendary sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies,” Jed Clampett strikes oil, strikes it rich, and strikes out for California. But what if Jed’s sudden fortune meant poisoning the water in Bug Tussle and Hooterville and bringing cancer to the residents of “Petticoat Junction”? Could Jed sit comfortably by the ce-ment pond and let that happen to his kinfolk?
The mixed blessing of sudden energy windfalls provides fodder for two documentaries tonight. “Deep Down” on “Independent Lens” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) profiles neighbors on opposite sides of the battle to prevent a coal company from practicing mountaintop removal in their corner of eastern Kentucky. In “Haynesville” (9 p.m., CNBC), folks in a Louisiana town have very different opinions about a gas company’s decision to tap a reservoir with a potential value of $1 trillion. Some see easy, unforeseen riches. Others worry about the health and environmental impact.
This subject — rich in drama, controversy and contradictions — has inspired other recent reports, documentaries and even one forensics drama. HBO presented “Gasland,” an exploration of the gas industry’s “fracking” technique and a long trail of rural residents left with poisoned wells and even flammable water in their faucets. “60 Minutes” recently offered a report on the potential upsides and downsides of gas exploration, and “CSI” centered a mystery on the murder of gas-company whistle-blowers.
With elements of both “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Erin Brockovich,” this is one story that’s not going away.
• Titles don’t come grimmer than “Facing Death,” tonight’s “Frontline” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) installment. Filmmakers gained unprecedented access to a New York hospital’s intensive-care unit, where, we are told, many patients go to die.
A thoughtful, painful and gripping hour of television, “Facing Death” is not for everyone but it does offer a thoughtful, open-minded and dignified discussion of an important topic that is all too often reduced to rancorous rhetoric or glib sound bites.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Jim’s power outage on “No Ordinary Family” (7 p.m., ABC).
• “Nova” (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings) explores King Solomon’s mines.
• Sue’s mother (Carol Burnett) visits on “Glee” (7 p.m., Fox).
• The search for a message-laden book concludes on “NCIS: Los Angeles” (8 p.m., CBS).
• On two episodes of “Raising Hope” (Fox), Thanksgiving (8 p.m.), an old flame (8:30 p.m.).
• A winner emerges on “Dancing with the Stars” (8 p.m., ABC).
• On two episodes of “In Treatment” (HBO), Jesse balks (8 p.m.), Paul’s false hopes (8:30 p.m.).
• Lisa Kudrow’s 2005 HBO comedy “The Comeback” (9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Sundance) returns in back-to-back installments every Tuesday night.
• An unwelcome Thanksgiving guest on “Parenthood” (9 p.m., NBC).
• A Samcro member held hostage on “Sons of Anarchy” (9 p.m., FX).