Shows worth noting for Aug. 4 - 10
The following are not necessarily recommended by the Monitor. All times Eastern, check local listings.
Recording 'The Producers': A Romp with Mel Brooks (PBS, check local listings): This Great Performances offering is sure to please Broadway musical fans. Mel Brooks himself explains his show, and Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick join him in this behind-the-scenes look at recording the hit show.
James Dean (TNT, 8-10 p.m.): James Franco is so Deansian, it's scary. The life story of the rebel without a cause has been shaped by fact and presumption into a startlingly enthralling drama. He only made three movies, but he was a legend in his own time - partly for his bad-boy looks and his bad-boy behavior behind the camera. This film enlarges even the myth. Israel Horovitz's script is sensational. (See story, page 19.)
The James Dean Story (TCM, 8-9 p.m.): The TV movie about James Dean (see above) is likely to whet the appetite for more about the actor. And this 1956 documentary by Robert Altman and George W. George, a weird time capsule, propels the viewer back to the ambience of the 1950s with startling clarity. Though the documentary lacks the shape and meaning of the drama, what it does offer is a feeling for the actor's genuine humanity sans the mythic tragedy.
Next: The Future Just Happened (A&E, 9-11 p.m., continues tomorrow night, same time): This high-profile BBC documentary, which has also spawned a book, could have been titled "Everything you wanted to know about the Internet, but were too afraid to ask." Michael Lewis, the amiable writer of the series, takes viewers from Estonia to Helsinki to the Silicon Valley to meet people whose lives and cultures have been changed by the Internet. There's a dark side to the technology, but Lewis demonstrates how it can act as a tool of empowerment.
Salgado: The Spectre of Hope (Cinemax, 7-8 p.m.): Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado has traveled to 40 countries recording the lives of the world's migrants - the poverty of 150 million brutalized people. The images are harsh, but knowledge is the beginning of a solution, and the film powerfully argues for justice.
Michael Amante (PBS, check local listings): "America's Tenor" should be "America's Italian Tenor" because it's Italian music that he best explores.