Controversy a no-show on Ellen's HBO special

Here's something shocking: an HBO stand-up comedy special with only a PG rating. "Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now" (9 p.m. today, HBO) features the former sitcom star's thoughts on life's accelerated pace, the futility of time-saving devices and the sublime pleasures of procrastination. Along with cracked insights into cell phones, TV commercials, mint breath strips and yoga, DeGeneres offers a refreshing break from the obscenity and anger embraced by many stand-up comedians.

Even the show's title, "Here and Now," sounds more like a lecture on Zen Buddhism than a TV special. Some of DeGeneres' humor hearkens back to the cracker-barrel observations of yore. Only, in her case, it's pickle barrel DeGeneres seems obsessed by tightly packed little gherkins. Don't go looking for any groundbreaking stuff here, just vintage Ellen at her scatterbrained best.

  • Fans of the late Richard Harris should not miss the four-hour, two-part epic miniseries "Caesar" (7 p.m. Sunday, TNT). Harris plays the Roman dictator Sulla with wonderful understatement, capturing the fear and contempt of an evil old man surrounded by young upstarts and rivals. After his first encounter with the bold Julius Caesar (Jeremy Sisto), he tells his colleague Pompey (Chris Noth), "That man has a big heart. Bring it to me in the morning."
  • The documentary "Maggie" (8 p.m. Sunday, PBS) takes a comprehensive look at the private life and political career of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Animated by film and TV news clips, re-enactments, and more than 50 interviews with friends, colleagues and rivals, "Maggie" recalls Thatcher's humble origins, stern religious upbringing and singular ambition.

Tonight's other highlights

  • An ailing detective (Tracy Pollan) suspects that a mystery writer (Robert Patrick) may be a serial killer in the 2002 mystery "1st to Die" (7 p.m., NBC), based on a novel by James Patterson.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in the futuristic 2000 thriller "The 6th Day" (7 p.m., ABC).
  • Mobsters abduct a shady businessman (Jeff Bridges) in the 2003 made-for-cable thriller "Scenes of the Crime" (7 p.m., Starz).

Sunday's other highlights

  • Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): repeat reports on Title IX controversies; Billy Crystal; the right of the mentally ill to bear arms.
  • Scheduled on a two-hour edition of "Dateline" (8 p.m., NBC): families cope with drug abuse and other crises.
  • "The Brothers Garcia" (7 p.m., Nickelodeon) enters a fourth season.

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