Tubegazing: 'Monk' and 'The Great Polar Bear Adventure'
Monk (USA Network, Dec. 22, 9 p.m. ET): Black and white TV has a certain storytelling charm – it lifts the characters into a more mythic time or space. Just in time for the holidays, the quirky USA Network comedy series "Monk" dips its pen in the palette of Edward R. Murrow and classic noir for a special episode titled "Mr. Monk and the Leper." Tony Shalhoub's nervous detective must face his phobias about human contact while investigating a murder that involves one of history's great untouchables, a leper. (The malady now is called Hansen's Disease.) As always, Adrian overcomes his queasiness, solves the crime, and delivers his trademark message about the importance of pushing through fears, no matter how deep- seated or real they seem. Grade: A–
The Great Polar Bear Adventure (Discovery Kids Channel, Dec. 24, 9 a.m.): Films that use real animals to tell a scripted story, such as this one, have come a long way thanks to technology. (See also "Charlotte's Web," currently in theaters.) This charming but disturbing tale illustrates the plight of the endangered polar bear. It follows a mother and her two cubs as they battle starvation, global warming, and the increasingly intrusive "two legs" – the hunters, researchers, tourists, and oil company reps – who are permanently altering life as the bears know it. Grade: A