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Soaps and sobs for a stay-at-home Saturday

By Kevin McDonough

United Feature Syndicate

Proof that one person’s "heartwarming" can be another’s emotional pornography can be found on "The Locator" (8 p.m., Saturday, WE), now entering its second season.

Troy Dunn has made a career of reconnecting families torn apart by bad divorces and noncommunication. He makes it his business to reconnect siblings who might have been literally separated at birth and then documents every tear, hug and sob for our entertainment pleasure.

In tonight’s show, a 26-year-old woman searches for her four sisters who have been scattered to the winds after being lost in foster care that was necessitated by their mother’s drug abuse.

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  • Over the next four weeks, Lifetime will turn over its Saturday nights to original movies based on the novels of Nora Roberts. Tonight’s offering, "Nor-thern Lights" (8 p.m., Saturday, Lifetime, TV-14), stars Eddie Cibrian as a Baltimore cop reeling from the death of his partner. What better place to regroup and lick his wounds than a town called Lunacy, Alaska?

There, he meets a feisty bush pilot (I am not making this up) named Meg (LeAnn Rimes). Who can blame them for finding love during those long nights of the northern latitudes? But when Meg’s dad — long-thought dead — ends up holed-up in a mountain cave, all bets are off! Rosanna Arquette co-stars as Meg’s mother and the long-abandoned wife of The Cave Man.

  • Last Sunday, "Kings" (7 p.m., Sunday, NBC, TV-14) debuted to mediocre ratings. I’ve long chastised NBC for programming cowardice, so I feel obliged to support them when they take a chance. A biblical parable/soap opera set in a modern fable, "Kings" is big and strange and different for network or even premium cable.

Viewers should give it a shot. And NBC should give viewers more chances to watch it by copying networks like HBO and repeating "Kings" several times a week, instead of say, "Celebrity Apprentice." If a show this ambitious doesn’t find an audience, I suspect the NBC brass will use that as an excuse to broadcast more hours of "Howie Do It."
On tonight’s "Kings," David’s absence casts a pall over the peace talks.

  • "Dateline" (6 p.m., Sunday, NBC) will devote its next three episodes to the financial crisis. Tonight’s installment, "The Mortgage Crisis," interviews people at all stages of the housing debacle.

We meet borrowers with scant income who took out staggering loans to buy homes and condominiums. Then we meet the lending officers who not only approved the loans but who falsified the lender’s documentation to justify them. Then we encounter people who used to work at places like Countrywide and other subprime outfits who freely admit that they were in the fraud business.
Correspondent Chris Hansen interviews a whistle blower who was fired for calling attention to atrocious loans and a Harvard professor who explains how companies offered incentives for giving the "dirtiest" loans possible — loans that lured borrowers with low initial payments, then walloped them with near usurious rates when the mortgages reverted to normal.

This "Dateline" offers very little that hasn’t already been covered on the much better CNBC special "House of Cards." But we do get a nice tabloid-TV moment when Hansen tries to ambush the disgraced former chairman of Countrywide but gets turned away by a security guard at his gated compound. I guess that’s what passes for investigative journalism these days.

Saturday’s highlights

  • The NCAA basketball tournament (3:30 p.m., CBS) continues.
  • Jodi Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Erika Christensen, Sean Bean and Kate Beahan star in the 2005 thriller "Flightplan" (7 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
  • A planetary epidemic leaves one survivor to contend with a mutant race in the 2009 shocker "I am Omega" (8 p.m., Sci Fi, TV-14).
  • Scheduled on "48 Hours Mystery" (9 p.m., CBS): An obsessive husband perishes.
  • Murder by Laundromat on "Castle" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).

Sunday’s highlights

  • Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): an interview with President Barack Obama; a homeless musician gets a break.
  • Penguins of all sizes make their way home to Antarctica only to find their traditional nesting places challenged by a changing climate on a "Nature" (7 p.m., PBS) from 2006.
  • Homer takes the family to Ireland on "The Simpsons" (7 p.m., Fox, TV-PG, D,L).
  • The semifinals of the baseball World Classic (7 p.m., ESPN).
  • The Prophet turns the tables on "Big Love" (8 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).
  • While on the lam, Walt and Jesse see their funds dry up on "Breaking Bad" (9 p.m., AMC, TV-14).
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