Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki

Supernatural (Friday, 9/8c, The CW)
It's a mad, mad, meta world when the Winchester brothers are transported to a parallel universe where Sam and Dean become their actual alter egos: Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, stars of a TV show called Supernatural. Even weirder, Castiel turns out to be a Twitter fiend whose real name is Misha Collins, and so on. Sounds like a fun change of pace from the recent grim tidings. Meanwhile, in the same time period on Fox, Fringe also visits its alt-world in a flashback episode that reveals new connections between the Bishops (Walter and Peter) and a young Olivia. Expect some emotional fireworks from that one.

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (Friday, 10/9c, Starz)
The bloody, raunchy six-part prequel to last year's gladiator sensation comes to a rousing conclusion as the new arena opens for business, and Batiatus (John Hannah) and Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) plot horrible revenge against those who would thwart their ambitions to place their champions — including the tormented Gannicus (Dustin Clare) — in the opening games. Triumph tainted with tragedy and drenched in gore, that's the Sparty line.

The 2011 Film Independent Spirit Awards (Saturday, 10/9c, IFC)
With Community's Joel McHale hosting the beachside ceremony in Santa Monica, consider this a laid-back warm-up for the Oscars, and the best chance for actors like James Franco, Annette Bening and the Winter's Bone cast to have a serious chance at a trophy this weekend — barring an upset. The Spirit Awards, honoring independent films (aka underdogs in the commercial film industry), have put together an eclectic list of best-picture nominees: 127 Hours, Black Swan, Greenberg, The Kids Are All Right and Winter's Bone. Watch and maybe you'll discover a movie you should have seen last year.

The 83rd Academy Awards (Sunday, 8/7c, ABC)
And now for the main event of the awards season. There's not a great deal of suspense in the major categories, unless you've got a vested interest in rooting for either The King's Speech or The Social Network (the front runners in the overstuffed if underwhelming Best Picture category), but the real intrigue surrounds the unconventional hosts. The protean James Franco is a wild card, teamed with class act (and accomplished singer, in case that comes in handy) Anne Hathaway. What these rising young stars will bring to the often leaden proceedings is anyone's guess. But they'll certainly be nicer than Ricky Gervais. (An hour before showtime, stargazers can watch the Red Carpet Live show, co-hosted by GMA's Robin Roberts, entertainment reporter Maria Menounos, style maven Tim Gunn and Vanity Fair West Coast editor Krista Smith.

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