Top Picks: SyFy's new program 'Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge,' Hafez Nazeri's new album, and more

Historian Simon Schama narrates 'The Story of the Jews' on PBS, National Geographic debuts two programs that pair science with everyday life, and more top picks.

The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama
Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge

Eccentric charm

Boris Kovač and La Campanella’s new release, Eastern Moon Rising, combines Eastern and Western traditions, but the core is jazz and tango. Many of the compositions sound like film scores; Kovač, a film composer, creates delightful turns of phrase by bringing listeners to the edge of musical clichés without succumbing to the obvious. Sax and accordion underscore the melodies, and drums and bass move the tempo forward with a soft touch. The guitar shimmers, keeping the sound romantic and light.

Forensic sleuths

Seventy years after World War II, a leading forensic archaeologist uses cutting-edge aerial photography to explore the remote Polish forest site of Treblinka, discovering dramatic evidence that proves the existence of what was said to be one of Hitler’s most brutally efficient death camps. In Treblinka: Hitler’s Killing Machine, Britain’s Dr. Caroline Sturdy Colls leads a team of excavators to uncover previously unidentified mass graves, a gas chamber, and other physical structures that Holocaust deniers claim never existed. It airs March 29 at 8 p.m. on Smithsonian Channel.

Jewish stories

Historian and Emmy Award-winner Simon Schama narrates the five-part The Story of the Jews as he travels from Russia and Ukraine to Egypt, Israel, and Spain, exploring the challenge of maintaining the Jewish identity – through suffering, resilience, and rebirth – with written and oral traditions. Schama occasionally participates in the retelling in a personal way, sharing from his own perspective as a British Jew growing up in the postwar shadow of World War II. It premières March 25 on PBS at 8 p.m.

Science riddles

Science meets everyday life on the National Geographic Channel. In the series None of the Above, host Tim Shaw demonstrates science concepts at unusual locations, such as a barbecue and a food truck, and asks onlookers to predict the results. Meanwhile, on the show The Numbers Game, host Jake Porway analyzes the statistics of situations, such as whether a bystander will help someone being mugged. “None” premières March 24 at 9 p.m. with “Numbers” following.

Mystical music

Take the idea of synthesizing East and West on the musical plane, mix in the verbal underpinnings of Sufi Islam’s popular mystical poet, Rumi, and all you need is an exciting, modern musical visionary to pull it off. Iranian composer, vocalist, and virtuoso instrumentalist Hafez Nazeri, along with 38 Grammy-winning musicians and engineers, has created Rumi Symphony Project: Untold, the first installment of an ongoing project on Sony Classical.

Monster apprentice

If you loved any on-screen puppet creature in the past 50 years, it probably came from the Jim Henson Company. Now you can watch as 10 hopefuls get unprecedented access to the legendary shop to explore every aspect of creating such creatures, from physiognomy to animatronics. They all gain hands-on experience, but only one wins as much as $100,000 and a much-coveted job at the shop. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge airs March 25 at 10 p.m. on SyFy.

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