WWII in HD (Sunday, 8 p.m., History) presents rare footage of World War II, found during a two-year global search through basements and archives. The footage was translated into high definition, then artfully edited to convey the sense that we're experiencing the events of 1939-45 as they happened. We see the Nazis roll into Austria and France; the Allies fight back; and folks back in the U.S. cope as best they can. Machine guns fire, planes burst into flames and bombs explode. WWII in HD is the next best thing to being there.
Now that I think of it, it's actually much preferable to being there.
Actors Rob Lowe, Amy Smart, LL Cool J and others read the words of soldiers who lived through the conflict. We also meet survivors, including a Jewish man who escaped from Austria and ended up fighting for the U.S. He begins the documentary with a startling line: "The Greatest Generation would imply to my mind people who really were involved and knew what was at stake. And I think the majority of the Greatest Generation didn't have a notion of what was at stake." In other words, they were just ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events.
Along with the soldiers' novel perspectives, we hear more familiar words from the likes of British prime minister Winston Churchill: "If we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss."
Now there's a guy who knew what was at stake.
Ann Rule's Everything She Ever Wanted
Saturday, 7 pm (Lifetime Movie Network)
It's tempting to fall for Gina Gershon's Pat, guys, but DON'T DO IT! She will ensnare you in her scheme for scaling her small town's social pyramid. Pat is an aging Southern belle who, after going through every other man in the county, sets her sights on a young stud named Tom (Ryan McPartlin). Tom is estranged from his wealthy father and in debt to his first wife, so there's no way he can buy Pat an expensive new ranch. But he does it anyway, because Pat will not rest until she has Everything She Ever Wanted.
Gershon is stunning in this role. She pouts, she wheedles, she seethes. Mostly she sizzles, her sensuality burning a hole right through the TV screen.
I guess I didn't take my own advice. I fell for Gina Gershon's Pat.
Sunday, 9 pm (PBS)
An American TV movie called Collision would surely begin and end with huge fireballs, and maybe sprinkle a few more in between. The British TV movie called Collision, by contrast, offers only small sparks, created when the intriguing characters interact with each other. True, the movie centers on a multi-vehicle car crash, but the filmmakers downplay this action sequence, preferring to explore its effect on people's lives.
The movie is slow-going at first, but it catches you up in its leisurely rhythms. The story begins after the crash, as a cop pores over pictures of the dead and wounded. Then it flashes back to the day before, when we see them living their lives at various levels of the social ladder. All have hopes, problems and secrets, and Collision connects them into a large-canvas look at contemporary English life.
With this kind of dramatic ambition, you don't even miss the fireballs (much).
Monday, 8 pm (CW)
Lady Gaga makes a cameo appearance, luring me back to Gossip Girl for the first time in a while. If the stunt works, I wouldn't be surprised if many TV series hire the fabulous glam singer to boost their appeal. I'd follow her almost anywhere, though I would have to draw the line at Ghost Whisperer.
Monday, 10 pm (Bravo)
The latest chef to get his own reality series is Jean Christophe Novelli, a Frenchman with a heavy accent who brings his cooking school to the U.S. At first, I didn't think I'd like the so-called sexiest chef in the world, with his gold chain and locks of greasy black hair. But he soon won me over with his seriousness. "On zee end, it's all about passion," he tells his students, getting the preposition wrong but strongly communicating his philosophy of cooking.
The students are mostly silly America types, and they're taken aback by Chef Novelli's intensity during their first challenge: making a simple plate of eggs. This seems easy enough, but Jean Christophe views it as an existential act. "Do eet like you're just about to save your life," he advises.
"Quite frankly, he's a little frightening," says one of Novelli's students.
You can say that again. I bet even the eggs are scared of this guy.