TV highlights for the week of Nov. 17-23. All times are Eastern; check local listings.
SUNDAY - 11/17
Nature (PBS, 8-9 p.m.): Go hog wild with this fun and interesting look at the history of the pig. Included in "The Joy of Pigs" are porcine pets and exotic species from around the world.
Sink the Bismarck (A&E, 8-10 p.m.): It's an evening of "unsinkable" ships. First, A&E chronicles the British Navy's hunt for Germany's "invincible sea tank," which sank England's pride and joy, the Hood, in less than 10 minutes. After a wobbly start filled with purple prose and weak computer graphics, the documentary gets its sea legs for an absorbing account of one of the greatest cat-and-mouse games of World War II. Of special note: an interview with one of the three survivors of the Hood.
Next out of the dock is the Titanic (CBS, 9-11 p.m.) - a vessel in vogue these days. In addition to this sweeps miniseries, a motion picture and a Broadway musical are also in the works. CBS's star-studded, small-screen offering does a good job of explaining the unfortunate events that led to the sinking of the luxury liner in 1912. It highlights some of the 1,523 people who perished, like Capt. Edward Smith (George C. Scott) and several of the 705 survivors, including "the unsinkable" Molly Brown (Marilu Henner). Some fictional characters are also included. Although often engaging, the program plays at times like a romance novel and is diminished by an unexpected rape scene that is completely out of place. Also starring Tim Curry and Peter Gallagher. Part 2 airs Tuesday.
Ireland: the Fight for Peace (public television stations, check local listings): Airing this month in various markets is this thoughtful and informative documentary on the ongoing battle for harmony on the Emerald Isle. Interviews with peace architect John Hume as well as activists and ordinary citizens shed light on the problems dividing Northern Ireland.
MONDAY - 11/18
Sesame Street (PBS, check local listings): Big Bird & Co. begin season No. 28 with a two-part episode featuring Noah Wyle, from NBC's "ER." Wyle plays a doctor who comforts Gabi when her mother, Maria, goes into the hospital. This season, the Emmy-winning program continues its tradition of using celebrities to discuss serious issues. Those scheduled to appear include rock stars Melissa Etheridge and Hootie & the Blowfish, actors Ed Harris and Whoopi Goldberg, and sports greats Shaquille O'Neal and Cal Ripken Jr.
Secrets of the Internet (Discovery, 10-11 p.m.): This is not a how-to guide for the Internet, but rather a look at some of its more interesting sites. In the first of three parts, Richard Karn ("Home Improvement") shows where surfers can watch a volcano erupt, sign up to fly in a Russian MIG, and tour the Galpagos Islands. Parts 2 and 3 air Tuesday and Wednesday.
TUESDAY - 11/19
Speed (FOX, 8-10:30 or 7:30-10 p.m.): Edge-of-your-seat action is featured in this 1994 movie starring Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, and Sandra Bullock, in her break-out role. Reeves is a Los Angeles police officer racing against time to save a city bus set to explode if it goes less than 50 m.p.h. Hopper plays the maniac bomber with aplomb. Includes impressive special effects and some violence.
Mad About You (NBC, 8-8:30 p.m.): Jamie's mother (Carol Burnett) is surprised to learn from a radio broadcast that her daughter (Helen Hunt) is pregnant. Also, playing off the popularity of the pop-culture game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," the show features a cameo by the "center of Hollywood" himself.
Spin City (ABC, 9:30-10 p.m.): An outspoken janitor (guest star Woody Harrelson) becomes "Mayor for the Day" when he wins a children's essay contest.
NewsRadio (NBC, 9-9:30 p.m.): Actor James Caan descends on the folks at NewsRadio, searching for sources for his upcoming movie.
THURSDAY - 11/21
Smoke Alarm: the Unfiltered Truth About Cigarettes (HBO, 7-7:30 p.m.): A joint production of HBO and Consumer Reports Television, this special examines marketing campaigns aimed at children, teen addictions, and the hazards of smoking.
SATURDAY - 11/23
Bob Hope: Laughing With the Presidents (NBC, 8-9 p.m.): The "only man who can get presidents to do walk-ons on his show" is making his last scheduled TV appearance. Bob Hope's 284th television special is filled with golf jokes, classic clips of the comic, and good-natured ribbing from special guests Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton; Betty and Gerald Ford, whom Hope says "can play four golf courses simultaneously"; George and Barbara Bush; and Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Despite some unnecessary hokum by host Tony Danza - who seems to be doing his best impression of Bob Saget ("America's Funniest Home Videos") - and the obligatory celebrity appearances, the show is a sweet celebration of Hope's many years entertaining at the White House.
Loch Ness (ABC, 8-10 p.m.): Ted Danson stars in this light drama about a professor who reluctantly goes in search of the Loch Ness monster. We won't give away the plot, but suffice it to say the services of the Jim Henson Creature Shop were needed. Filmed near Loch Ness, Scotland, the scenery is stunning, and the Scottish burrs thick as cream. A charming little girl, Isabel (Kirsty Graham), and her mother (Joely Richardson) figure prominently. Despite its dubious story line, the show is ultimately entertaining.
PICK OF THE WEEK
Bob Hope: Laughing With the Presidents
Saturday, Nov. 23, 8-9 p.m. (NBC)