Lifetime’s biopic on the R&B star Aaliyah, tragically killed in a plane crash in 2001 at the height of her career at 22 years old, has been broiling in controversy since day 1. There was the casting of the lead role in Disney star Zendaya Coleman, who was replaced by Nick star Alexandra Ship after reportedly leaving due to problems with the production. Then there’s the fact that Aaliyah’s family was not involved with the film’s creation, which threatened its credibility. But perhaps the most talked-about aspect—and will likely reach heightened scrutiny following the film’s premiere Nov 15—is the portrayal of Aaliyah’s secret, illegal marriage to producer R. Kelly when she was just 15. What’s more important than all of the controversy, however, is the reason the film was made, says executive producer Debra Martin Chase, who originally developed the film “Sparkle” for Aaliyah prior to her death. “We want this to be a celebration about an incredible young woman who was taken from us too soon,” she says. Of course, easier said than done when you’re dealing with a figure of such influence. “It’s hard for people because Aaliyah still is so beloved. It’s a movie… We chose not to make a documentary. It’s the spirit of the people and we hope it will renew interest in her and keep her legacy even more alive today.” One thing she hopes that will resonate with viewers is how much Aaliyah accomplished in such a short time, as well as the strength and support she received from her family. “She had an incredibly strong loving family unit, and they made everybody around them feel a part of that. And I thought that was very interesting and important to portray, because often with young stars we hear to the contrary,” Chase says. “For me I think her life was inspirational” and will “remind people to make the time that you have count.” – Kaylee Hultgren

“Paper Angels,” Sun, 7p ET, UP. Several cable nets began holiday programming weeks ago [see CFX’s Special Report on Holiday Programming, Nov 3]. Fortunately, they often schedule less overtly holiday fare before Dec 1, like this beautiful piece about a woman (gorgeous Josie Bissett) and her teen children who struggle after leaving an alcoholic father. A parallel plotline has a young married ( Matthew Settle of “Gossip Girl”) also having problems. The stories intersect via a non-denominational message and the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. — “The Missing,” premiere, Sun, 9p, Starz. This fabulous 8-ep thriller stars James Nesbitt as Tony, obsessed with finding his little son, who disappeared during a holiday in France. A retired French detective (played by Tchéky Karyo) aids Tony during his 8-year quest, told via a complicated narrative that is loaded with flashbacks. The word ‘gripping’ barely describes the intensity of this limited series, which digs deeply into characters’ motivations and relationships. — “Untold Stories of the ER,” Fri, 10, Discovery Fit & Health. Nine seasons and 100 eps in, this series continues to re-enact wild, interesting stories. This week’s centenary ep features a man with a shovel impaled in his—ouch—perineum, an obstinate police officer who eschews treatment for a possible heart attack and a frat boy bleeding from two orifices. – Seth Arenstein

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