A sponge in protest
SpongeBob Squarepants may be off the air except in reruns, but the bright yellow hero manages to reappear at just the right moments – this time on Earth Day. "SpongeBob's Last Stand," a half-hour special, airs April 22 on Nickelodeon at 8 p.m. With 1960s-style protest songs, the sponge-with-a-heart must rally the denizens of Bikini Bottom to see that a new superhighway cutting across Jellyfish Fields is not in their best interests.
Burma's beating heart
"Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country" is a harrowing look at the efforts of the country's struggling journalists to report on the 2007 uprising. The 90-minute documentary reminds us that the heart of a free Burma is still beating, but against great odds. Shot with hidden cameras amid the constant threat of imprisonment, it was a 2010 Academy Award nominee. It airs April 20, 9:30 p.m., on HBO.
In the PBS documentary "Dirt! The Movie," we learn that just one teaspoon of the stuff contains a billion organisms all working together to create a vital substance that's used for agriculture, beauty, and medicine. Inspired by William Bryant Logan's book "Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth," it uses science and humor to explore how humans have abused and taken for granted such a valuable resource – and offers some solutions. Airs on "Independent Lens," April 20 at 10 p.m.
A tour to remember
The National Geographic channel goes on a whirlwind journey through its quarter century of documentary filmmaking in "Explorer: 25 Years With Host Lisa Ling," on April 20 at 9 p.m. Highlights include: a 1,000-mile African trek to areas never before seen; the search for the green-eyed Afghan girl whose gaze captured the world's imagination in 1985; an interview with the leader of the Afghan Northern Alliance, charismatic warrior Ahmed Shah Massoud (assassinated by suspected Al Qaeda operatives in 2001); as well as original coverage of the discovery of the sunken Titanic.
The seeds of green
"Earth Days," directed by Robert Stone, is an engaging film about the history of the American environmental movement. Rather than offering doom and gloom it delivers a superlative collection of archival footage and self-deprecating talking heads including Paul Ehrlich ("The Population Bomb") and Stewart Udall (the 1960s secretary of the Interior). Debuts on PBS's "American Experience" April 19 at 9 p.m.
Changing the menu
This exposé of agribusiness will swear you off fast foods, anything suspiciously meaty and plump in the supermarkets, anything canned, and just about anything corn-based or genetically altered. The state of affairs that our foodstuffs have fallen into can, according to director Robert Kenner's "Food, Inc.," be traced to the multinational agribusiness takeover of food production. Many grisly statistics are put forth by such folks as activists Eric Schlosser ("Fast Food Nation") and Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore's Dilemma"). Airs April 21, 9 p.m., on PBS.