What's on TV

SHOWS FOR AUG. 16-22

Sunday 8/17

The Mayor of Casterbridge (A&E, 8-11 p.m.): It sounds dreadfully stuffy, high-brow, and boring. But wait. This three-hour movie, based on the novel by Thomas Hardy, is actually an attention-getter from start to finish. Set in the early 1800s, the story opens with a drunken British farmhand named Michael Henchard (Ciaran Hinds) who auctions off his wife, Susan, and baby to a sailor. Fast-forward 19 years later - Henchard is sober and the mayor of Casterbridge. Susan eventually reunites with him. But what about the woman he had promised to marry before Susan came along? A richly layered and consuming tale of love and betrayal not to be missed. TV-G

Anatomy of a Scene: 'American Splendor' (Sundance Channel, 7 p.m.): This Sundance series is a boon to film buffs, and is especially intriguing for those who love the mysteries of cinematic technique. "American Splendor," winner of the Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize, is an offbeat comedy based on a true story. Cleveland file clerk Harvey Pekar writes his life story - a complex individual who sees himself as a comic book character. Paul Giamatti stars. TV-14

Nefertiti Resurrected (Discovery Channel, 9-11 p.m.): So, whatever happened to Nefertiti? She blossomed as a powerful ruler, but once she died, the great queen disappeared - even from her grave. Now an English Egyptologist claims to have located the queen among a family group that had been stripped of telltale finery and then mutilated.

Monday 8/18

Searching for Debra Winger (Showtime, 8-9:40 p.m.): In Rosanna Arquette's directorial debut, Hollywood actresses whine about aging and how tough it is to get a job when you hit 40. While the "poor-me" factor is high, something relevant does come through: The stars talk about trying to balance family life with their profession - problems many women who are not paid a tenth as well have, too. TV-PG

Wednesday 8/20

Smoking Gun TV (Court TV, 8-9 p.m.): Court TV skewers itself with this goofy special starring Mo Rocca ("The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"). Mo has a makeover to look like Nick Nolte playing a drug addict. He also investigates the theft of a steak by a hungry teenager - right off her neighbor's grill. Sardonic, smart, and slightly offensive, the special is largely a hoot.

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