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On TV this week: tuning in

By M.S. Mason / November 7, 2003



Saturday 11/8

Dead Ringers (BBC America, 11 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. PT): This politically volatile sketch comedy from Britain falls somewhere between Monty Python and Candid Camera as it skewers American politicians and celebs as well as the English themselves. The best bit this time around involves "Russell Crowe" as "The Gladiator" who interviews contractors about rebuilding some (genuine) Roman ruins. Satire is an art form in England, and even though some references will fly over American heads, there's plenty of guffaws for us in the "colonies."

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Tuesday, 11/11

American Valor (PBS, check local listings): Men who have won the highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, tell stories of courage in the face of their own fears. The tales are generally told with astonishing humility as the men's voices are intercut with archival footage and lackluster illustrations. It makes for an often incoherent package but the overall effect still manages to give us a humbling look at the nature of courage.

Wednesday, 11/12

Bridge on the River Kwai (PBS, check local listings): This powerful documentary investigates one of the building of the Japanese-engineered Thai-Burma Railway, made famous by the 1957 film about British and American prisoners of war building a strategic bridge. The movie, directed by David Lean, was not nearly harsh enough in its depiction of what took place and how many lives were lost. Two of the Japanese engineers who directed construction are included in the film - one from archival footage, the other in a recent interview - but both deny their own culpability. The documentary tells how the bridge on the River Kwai was destroyed a few months after the railway's completion by the first American "smart bombs." But it's the story of human endurance that resonates.

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