What's on TV

SHOWS FOR MAY 17-23

Sunday 5/18

Hitler: The Rise of Evil (CBS, 9-11, continues May 20, 9-11 p.m.): It raised a ruckus when the subject was first announced. Nobody thought CBS could handle the childhood of the most monstrous Western figure of the 20th century. There were fears that the network would sentimentalize him - or "explain" away his penchant for atrocities by demonstrating his unhappy childhood. And, truth be told, CBS made a choppy job of it. In one scene, it shows him stoically taking a savage beating by his father. In another, he displays a gross indifference to his mother's fatal illness. When he becomes a soldier, we see him beat a dog nearly to death before it and all his comrades are blown to smithereens. But there is no real explanation for his anti-Semitism. Still, in the final two hours, we get a sense of what went on behind the scenes - deft intimidation, egomaniacal will, and total brutality. The best thing the film does is demystify the creepy cretin - criminally insane, driven, and wily enough to organize the depravity in others to his advantage. Robert Carlyle's icy performance in the last two hours is riveting. TV-14

Monday 5/19

Martha, Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart (NBC, 9-11 p.m.): A good wife she may not have been. But I'm not convinced that she's as bad as they want us to think. While Cybill Shepherd is terrific as the frigid maven of K-Mart coordinated sheets and towels, pitching fits and freezing her husband out isn't all that interesting. In the end, it's all just gossip. TV-PG

Portraits of Islam (Sundance Channel, 9 p.m.-12 midnight; through May 21): Insightful film series looks at what it means to be a Muslim, from France to Iran, today. Included are narrative features by world-renowned Muslim filmmakers Abbas Kiarostami and Samira Makhmalbaf, and documentaries by Taran Davies.

Thursday 5/22

The Kid Stays in the Picture (HBO, 9-10:35): The darling of many a film festival, this autobiographical documentary about producer Robert Evans ("The Godfather," "Love Story") may be a bit self-aggrandizing, but it also seems real - the truth behind the deals made in tinsel town. Evans tells his own story and he sounds like the voice-over in a great crime movie - think "Sunset Boulevard." For all film buffs, this harsh, smart flick investigates Hollywood mystique, and therefore the history of movies.

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