The holiday season is flum - thrumming at full throttle, and in TV terms that means especially heartfelt episodes of your favourite shows - the docs on ER will inevitably receive an infusion of good cheer from an overturned busload of drunken charity Santas, for example, while CSI's murder scenes will be taped off with tinsel and bows and strings of popcorn.
Rita MacNeil or Tom Jackson will likely host a more homespun holiday celebration, necessitating a fiddle-and-spoons version of the Huron Carol, while Clark Griswold, the Grinch and the Rankin/Bass stop-motion Rudolph will remind us of our childlike greed for gifts.
Amid these heartwarming stories of peace and goodwill, love and forensics and, uh, forgiveness, CTV offers the anti-Capra-esque Shades Of Black, about the wonderful life of Conrad Black.
Never mind that there are no shades - light, dark or otherwise - of black. This movie of the week offers no shades of Black either.
Soulpepper Theatre's Albert Schultz - with suet lips, glassy shark eyes and a measured monotone to match the flattened sheaf across his skull - is less Jimmy Stewart and more Lionel Barrymore-like as Black, the child of privilege, denouncer of Canadian citizenship and disgraced press baron currently facing racketeering, obstruction of justice, money laundering and wire fraud charges in the U.S.
Of course, having crossed paths with the real Lord Black of Crossharbour only once several years ago at a National Post party, I can hardly judge the accuracy - either of fact or character - of Schultz's portrayal of my former boss.
That said, Schultz's Black comes across as an aspiring Charles Foster Kane, only much more verbose and grandiose in his verbiage. For example, he refers to the media's coverage of his downfall as "the defamatory fictions of my tormentors," which makes me curious about what he'd say about this TV movie. Or this column, for that matter.
Black's Rosebud is second wife Barbara Amiel, a journalist and high-society vixen played with the vacancy of a condemned motel and the warmth of a TV yule log by Lara Flynn Boyle, collagened lips flapping away.
And Jason Priestley pops up as Jeff Sargeant, a less-than-angelic small-town reporter who tries to get the scoop of his life by pestering Black for an interview while also attempting to illuminate the error of Black's ways.
Naturally, ego gets the better of Black, who indulges the reporter even though he's suspicious of his motives, and rightly so. Priestley's fictitious character is actually an undercover FBI agent trying to get the goods on Black, a ludicrous conceit that only adds to the movie's guilty pleasure.
As far as scandals go, Black's problems are particularly tame. No illicit sex - no sex of any kind, as far as the movie is concerned - or drugs. No global socio-political ramifications. Not even a blue chip debacle on the scale of Enron, although the stakeholders in Hollinger International certainly aren't pleased with the lump of coal Black left in their stockings.
Black just happens to be a millionaire living a billionaire's lifestyle who got caught up in his own mythmaking. What public interest there is in his affairs is largely fuelled, I suspect, by the very media he once in part commanded, which are only too delighted to nibble at one of their former kingpins like rats at a gingerbread house.
As for whether Jeff Sargeant gets his wings - uh, man - remains to be seen, as the case against the real Conrad Black is expected to go to trial next May in Chicago.
Shades Of Black airs Monday (December 4) at 8 pm on CTV.
What to watch this week
Monday, December 4
BALLET GIRLS The first in a three-part doc about young Royal Winnipeg Ballet hopefuls. Call it So You Think You Can Plié?
9 pm on Bravo!
Wednesday, December 6
THE NATURE OF THINGS David Suzuki presents The Man Who Couldn't Sleep, which follows UN HIV/AIDS envoy Stephen Lewis to Africa.
8 pm on CBC