The world is Sir David Attenborough's playground, which he has revealed on camera in all of its natural wonder with irrepressible enthusiasm for the last 60 years, forging a career that encompasses what he calls "the golden age of natural history filmmaking." His breakthrough TV programs include 1979's epic Life on Earth, which launched a series of "Life" specials, and such recent phenoms as Planet Earth and Frozen Planet (although Discovery Channel replaced his narration with American actors for U.S. broadcast).
PBS' Nature celebrates his astonishing milestones over the next three Wednesdays with a miniseries, Attenborough's Life Stories (check tvguide.com listings), which functions as a visual history of how this sort of nature programming has evolved with the help of technological breakthroughs. "The shots just got better and better," Attenborough marvels in the wonderfully anecdotal first chapter, "Life on Camera," which reaches back to the black-and-white '50s, before innovations in video cameras and infrared lighting allowed filmmakers to fully capture life underwater or animal behavior in the dark. You'll hang on every word, while relishing some of the most captivating sequences of wildlife ever captured.
It's a strong night for PBS, which also includes a timely and fascinating installment of the science program Nova, titled "Rise of the Drones," which goes deep inside the controversial technology of unmanned aerial vehicles, including the killer "Predators" that are credited with taking out much of the Al Queda leadership.
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THE HORROR: "There is nothing more stimulating than crazy people," declares Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), victim turned famous investigative-journalist crusader, in the unusually contemplative finale of FX's American Horror Story: Asylum (10/9c). In the episode's framework, she's being interviewed as a most unlikely recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor, an occasion that allows her to fill in the blanks regarding the fate of many characters, including Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) and Kit Walker (Evan Peters). And while there are interludes of unexpected grace and forgiveness, this is American Horror Story, after all, and it all builds to a volatile reunion between mother Lana and deranged son, second-generation Bloody Face (Dylan McDermott), festering with abandonment issues.
GOOD SPORTS: Well timed to cash in on Super Bowl fever, USA Network's slick pro-football dramedy Necessary Roughness (10/9c) resumes its second season with the New York Hawks facing an uncertain future after the team owner's untimely demise leaves the franchise in the hands of his spitfire daughter (Danielle Panabaker), who's only sure about a few things: how much she hates football and resents the Hawks. Maybe not the best timing for Dr. Dani (Callie Thorne) to be experiencing a career crisis, suspending her therapy practice and unloading on her professorial mentor (Peter MacNicol) about her dalliance with Nico (Scott Cohen). Besides, her most demanding client TK (Mehcad Brooks) has just emerged from rehab, setting up an ego clash with the team's newest star (Robbie Jones). With all of that going on, the last thing this show needs is the cutesy metaphor of a frozen pet fish Dani can't bring herself to bury.
COMEDY TONIGHT: You haven't lived until you've seen The Middle's Sue Heck (the ever-brilliant Eden Sher) bring it on in a cheer-off against Orson High's stuck-up cheerleading squad, who've decided to take over the Wrestlerettes' duties. On the grown-up front in this very funny episode (8/7c on ABC), the irascible Mike bristles upon realizing that Frankie arranged his outing with a friendly new neighbor (David Koechner) — whose wife may look oddly familiar (it's original 90210's Gabrielle Carteris!). ... On ABC's Modern Family (9/8c), the sudden arrival of Gloria's newborn prompts a visit from her mother (Elizabeth Pena) from Columbia.
BRINGING THE DRAMA: Farscape's Ben Browder turns up on The CW's Arrow (8/7c) as the superhero's latest target for justice, but the mission is complicated when the suspected crook turns out to be the military mentor of Arrow's sidekick Diggle (David Ramsey), who insists he's OK. ... A very welcome face returns to The CW's Supernatural (9/8) when the brothers investigative deaths in a role-playing game and learn the LARP queen is their adorable hacker friend Charlie (Felicia Day). ... After last week's tragedy on CBS' Criminal Minds (9/8), poor Reid is left to grieve as the rest of the BAU team chases a killer in San Francisco's Mission District. ... On CBS' CSI (10/9c), Hodges is a much happier camper, announcing his engagement to an Italian hottie. But there's little time for "Love" as the unit investigates the murder of a tennis star, with cameos by Grand Slam champions Chris Evert and Lindsay Davenport. ... It's party time on ABC's steadily improving Nashville (10/9c) as the label toasts the hit collaboration of Rayna and Juliette on "Wrong Song," with actual Nashville stars Brantley Gilbert and Chris Young in attendance. Still, family has a way of bringing the mood down, which may make you wonder why Juliette brings her troubled mom along and why Rayna continues to put up with husband (and newly elected mayor) Teddy, who's jealous of her hot new producer.
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