Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Do a dance about Jerome Robbins, trace the impact of Lincoln's life, purr over our love of cats and dogs, and more.

Courtesy of PBS
Courtesy of National Geographic Channels

Dance master

If the dancer, choreographer, and Broadway musical director Jerome Robbins had only created the ballet "Fancy Free" (1944) and the show and film "West Side Story" (1957), he'd be remembered as one of the most important, mid-20th-century artists. But add on his ballets for New York City Ballet, the musicals "Gypsy" and "Fiddler on The Roof," plus his frequent collaborations with Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, and you truly have Something To Dance About, the PBS-American Masters two-hour program, airing Feb. 18 at 9 p.m. The son of immigrants, Robbins spent a lifetime alternating between ambition and insecurity, as he tried to assimilate into the national culture, a struggle documented along with films of his dances in this fascinating documentary-memoir.

Lincoln 101

Follow the sweep of Abraham Lincoln's life from childhood through marriage, to his unlikely ascension to the presidency. Then track his tumultuous Civil War years, assassination, and march into a larger-than-life position in the story of America. Through letters, reenactments, and historical/archival materials as well as interviews with historians, The Real Abraham Lincoln traces the impact of this remarkable leader as the nation celebrates his 200th birthday. It airs on the National Geographic Channel, Feb. 14 at 9 p.m.

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America's first African-American president is captured on this "60 Minutes" DVD Obama: All Access. His most famous speeches, interviews with his family, and unaired footage give us a glimpse of the man at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Music for any season

Revel in the details of composer Antonio Vivaldi's masterwork, "The Four Seasons," as the Documentary Channel follows a quartet of musicians living through the four different, yes, seasons in far-flung corners – Tokyo, New York City, Finland, and Thursday Island, just north of Australia. This phrase-by-phrase deconstruction of the score in the documentary 4 (airing Feb. 16 at 9 p.m.) is a valentine to music lovers everywhere.

Paws for thought

Puppy – and kitty love – are in the air this Valentine's Day weekend on PBS Nature's Why We Love Cats and Dogs. Find out more than you thought you knew about why you chose that feline or canine companion and what these furry friends may say about you. The show – which includes a look at human devotion, profiling a couple who sell their business to care for an ailing dog – airs Feb. 15 at 8 p.m.

School's out!

Now what? Check your local museums, aquariums, zoos, planetarium, and even the library about special activities for children during those weeks, such as arts and crafts, performances, tours, and games. Some events are free with the price of admission; others have separate fees. And some may need reservations, so do your "homework" and don't wait until the last minute. (Sound familiar?)

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