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El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera

(Nickelodeon) 10 a.m. Saturday

Nickelodeon's new animated kids series "El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera," which follows the comings and goings of a well-meaning 13-year-old named Manny, is pumped up with color, lights, fast action and a hip sensibility — well, hip if you go to elementary school. It's rather mindless at its core, but kids might not notice if all the jazzy spectacle gets to them first.

The fictional locale is Miracle City, and it is brimming with striking colors and the hoopla of a cross between a spaghetti Western and Latino folk art. The husband-wife team of creators Jorge R. Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua have infused the series with an amazing kind of nonstop energy, and it's all so frenetic it makes the world outside the television screen seem almost sleepy. This might not be a good thing, but at least our hero and his sister Frida are having fun, chasing bad guys (they inherit some superpowers, of course, the way all cool animated characters must these days) and generally saving the world for a glorious (and very loud) future. It's fun but furious. The series' regular time slot will be 10:30 a.m. Saturdays.



Sacrifices of the Heart

(Hallmark Channel) 9 p.m. Saturday

Hallmark Channel's "Sacrifices of the Heart" is a slow-going yet effective drama centered on the subject of Alzheimer's. More to the point, the story focuses on the family sacrifices that often must be made when the disease strikes. Blessed with a solid cast, including Melissa Gilbert and the always watchable Ken Howard, the original movie gets by on its familiar faces and theme more than anything inherently original in the material.

"Heart's" author is Patti Davis, whose father, President Reagan, as we all know, was stricken with Alzheimer's. Davis makes her case here by showing the audience how the disease strengthened her relationship with her father.

Gilbert plays a successful attorney who learns of her father's disease and chooses to help him by making a large personal and professional sacrifice. There are some other dramatic elements thrown in for good measure, all in an attempt to hoist up the movie's appeal to family viewers. But the main story line is simple enough: Taking action is the only choice we have. Slow it might be, but the movie is heartfelt as well.



The Dark Ages

(The History Channel) 9 p.m. Sunday

You got some bad days? Think about those folks in the Dark Ages who had 600 years of bad days; you might feel a little better about your prospects watching two hours of a brutal but quite fascinating History Channel documentary, "The Dark Ages."

We're troubled by Britney's bald style and Anna Nicole's burial in the news of our day, but the people of antiquity were tormented by famine, bubonic plague, smelly hordes of Vikings and Visigoths and all manner of bloody plundering and pillaging.

In addition to the professorial talking heads, what enhances these egregious tales is that executive producer Vincent Kralyevich of KPI and producer-director-writer Christopher Cassell seemed to have mounted several armies of re-enactors for slaughtering each other. It's very effective madness. It looks like a horrific war among CapitalOne TV casts and crews.

The time frame is the fall of Rome in 410 A.D. to Pope Urban II invoking the First Crusade in 1095 A.D. to "free" the Holy Land. Because of those time constraints (there wasn't very good news coverage during those 600 years), we don't get a very personal look at the lives of most of the despots.

But if you run across any of them — like Alaric, King Clovis, Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora (ooooh, she's a bombshell!), Charles Martel, Alfred the Great, Charlemagne, Ivar the Boneless — then it's just prudent that you hurry to get out of town.



Epic Conditions

(Weather Channel) 9 p.m. Sunday

Extreme is going around. Extreme sports, extreme makeovers, extreme politics and, as of recent bad girl behavior, extreme journalism. Now the Weather Channel has leaped in full force with an extremist series of five episodes, all titled "Epic Conditions."

The central force here is the celebrated Warren Miller Prods., which essentially created extreme photography. The first two extremes distributed for review feature raging images. The first Sunday show covers skiing on the celebrated "champagne (snow) powder" at Steamboat Springs, Colo.; the second, set for March 11, covers big wave surfing on Maui, Hawaii.

Coming are reports on mountain biking in Moab, Utah, (March 18), Chesapeake sailing (March 25) and Idaho whitewater rafting (April 1).

These reports involve the perfect configuration of weather and athletes. The major curiosity is why these folks do these insane things. One of the surfers says some of the waves hit you like a truck falling on you, that one of these 50-, 60-foot waves "could rip your head off." But they live for it and love it. It's called extreme insanity. For the rest of us, it's plenty good to just watch the show.
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