Tubegazing: Chimpanzees and Underfunded
Two shows look at abused chimps and an underappreciated Canadian spy.
Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History (PBS, Sunday Nov. 5, 8 p.m. EDT): This fall, PBS's award-winning series "Nature" turns 25, and the series still knows how to knock us out with the natural world. The celebratory season launches this Sunday with a documentary on the critical state of the endangered chimpanzee. The history of man and chimps is a sad one. Chimps have been used as test subjects for everything from spaceflight to AIDS research, not to mention as entertainment in movies and TV. The show goes up-close and personal with a handful of aging refugees who've suffered abuse. We see their final salvation at some of the few sanctuaries devoted to restoring the population and dignity of mankind's nearest DNA relative. Grade A–
Underfunded (USA Network, Wed., Nov. 8, 10 p.m. EDT): If you want to be a secret agent, you'd better enjoy the shadows. But, hey, it wouldn't hurt to get some credit now and then. This new basic cable series has some fun with a Canadian Secret Service agent who just can't seem to get any respect. "We have one, too!" is his plaintive ongoing punch line – except that, in real life, Canada doesn't have a secret service. But don't worry about reality – the show is just an excuse to have some fun at the CIA's expense. The Americans take all the credit for solving big international crises (end-of-the-world type stuff), while the clever Canuck, who works out of a ramshackle office above a deli, does all the work. Grade: B