What's on TV

SHOWS WORTH NOTING FOR OCT. 13-19

The following programs are not necessarily recommended by the Monitor. All times are Eastern; check local listings.

Sunday 10/14

F. Scott Fitzgerald: Winter Dreams (PBS, check local listings): American Masters' vivid biography of the novelist, told largely through his own writing, is as sad as it is informative. The sadness lies in the false dreams of wealth, style, and social standing Fitzgerald himself dreamed. But the writer did see through his ambitions. He understood class distinctions, and he lived his life as if it were his own fiction. Campbell Scott does a dazzling job of reading Fitzgerald's work.

Afghanistan (The Travel Channel, 9-10 p.m.): Adventurer Robert Young Pelton spent three difficult years trying to get to Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. When he finally made it, Massoud (who has since been assassinated) had surprising things to say. This rough-hewn travelogue is a strange but welcome addition to our gathering of information about the mysteries of this desolate country. In a recent interview, Mr. Pelton tried to put Afghanistan's tragic history in perspective. "Bin Laden is not as important as [Americans] think he is. If he were killed or captured, it wouldn't stop terrorists. He knows how to manipulate the press - he tells them exactly what he wants you to hear."

Surviving Gilligan's Island: The Incredibly True Story of the Longest Three-Hour Tour in History (CBS, 9-11 p.m.): It's been 40 years since the show ended, but it's never really been off the air. This odd story is told in an unusual way - with the original cast members telling their own stories with some wit.

Monday 10/15

The Ponder Heart (PBS, 9-11 p.m.): Masterpiece Theatre's American Collection presents a charming adaptation of Eudora Welty's prize-winning comic novel. Uncle Daniel Ponder (Peter McNichol of "Ally McBeal" fame) is so sublimely generous, he doesn't mind parting with his money whenever anyone asks for it. But when he marries a superficial and insecure younger woman, his relatives fear for his fortune. When the girl dies suddenly, Uncle Daniel is accused of murdering her - a notion too absurd for anyone who knows him.

Friday 10/19

Mirrorball (BBC America, 9-9:30 p.m.): The series première is a hoot. The team from "Absolutely Fabulous" is back with new personas. The ripping wit of Jennifer Saunders is still intact in her role as a lazy actress. Julia Sawalha plays her sister, a serious (and humorless) actress.

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