This Was America ... 1963 (The Disney Channel, 9-10 p.m.): Let's-look-at-the-past documentaries are having a heyday on TV these days, and the Disney Channel now weighs in with two specials, each revisiting a memorable year in recent American history: 1963 and 1968. This first show deals with 1963, putting together film clips, interviews, and commentary to re-create that exhilarating if sometimes terrible time in American history. The record has lots of evocative images to call upon: for example, the assa ssination of President Kennedy, and then of his alleged assassin; the return to earth of astronaut Gordon Cooper after orbiting the planet; the signing of the nuclear test-ban treaty with the Soviet Union; Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream..." speech. Pop culture gets its due with reminders of how TV's "Beverly Hillbillies" and "Dick Van Dyke Show" were pulling in the highest ratings, and "Surfin' USA" was topping the record charts. And Mary Travers of the trio Peter, Paul, and Mary talks about the g roup's keynote hit, "Puff the Magic Dragon." She's the ideal guest to bridge the time gap: She and her group are still making appearances - and singing some of the same numbers. The host is that fixture of TV documentaries, E.G. Marshall. (Part 2, "This Was America ... 1968," airs July 20 at 9 p.m.) * THURSDAY
Alive TV (PBS, 10-10:30 p.m.): Even for public TV, this series could be called "alternative" programming - or at least different. This week it offers "More Not-for-Saturday-Morning Animations," a continuation of the kind of creative cartoons aired previously. In "Screen Play," Barry Purves taps Japanese theater conventions in a film using puppet animation. Advertisements of the 1950s and 1960s are converted into cutout animation by Lewis Klahr in "Pharaoh's Belt: Cake Excerpt." And watercolors with a tan go soundtrack are the components in Jeffrey Scher's "Milk of Amnesia," a work that made a big hit at last year's New York Film Festival.
Please check local listings for these programs, especially the one on PBS.