Imagine an island nation. Its allies have been crushed by a cruel and seemingly invincible power. Its army has just bid a hasty retreat from certain destruction and has abandoned most of its weaponry on foreign shores. Its cities are subject to merciless bombardment and its population fears imminent invasion. No, this is not the plot of "Independence Day." This was the state of England, 60 summers ago, after Hitler's armies had conquered France, and seemed on the verge of enslaving the British Isles. Embattled England's stirring and resolute defiance under the leadership of Winston Churchill is the subject of "Finest Hour" (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings), a two-part documentary concluding next Monday. This inspiring film weaves together military and diplomatic history with personal accounts of individual Britons in the Royal Air Force and Women's Auxiliary.
Most of all it is a story of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who took office at age 65 and galvanized his people with his powerful command of his nation's greatest asset and export: the English language. Like Shakespeare's Henry IV, he used oratory to turn certain defeat into improbable defiance and eventual triumph. The following are quotes from Churchill's speeches during the fateful month of June 1940. Compare the spare, simple power of Churchill's words to the styrofoam sound-bytes of contemporary statesmen: "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we will never surrender."
"If the British Empire and it's Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour."'
- She won an Emmy playing a judge on "The Practice," now Holland Taylor appears as lawyer Evelyn McGinnis in the TV potboiler, "The Deadly Look of Love" (9 p.m., Lifetime). "Deadly" concerns a unsophisticated small-town girl, Janet Flanders (Jordan Ladd), who is besotted with romance novels and the notion of finding her One True Love. She thinks she finds him in Brett Becker (Vincent Spano), who makes love to her without letting her in on a little secret -- he's engaged. Later, when his new bride is found brutally slain, not even big-shot lawyer McGinnis believes she can save Flanders from her delusions.
Writer-director Sollace Mitchell set out to make an anti-romance with this movie. "We wanted to do a movie about the all-American girl next door. The film illustrates how pop culture forms the (romantic) ideals she has and what happens when her fantasies fail her." Of course, this is not an entirely new idea. The theme of romance and its seductive and destructive power runs through the novel "Madame Bovary" by Gustave Flaubert, which caused quite a sensation when published in 1857.
Tonight's other highlights
Scheduled on "Dateline" (7 p.m., NBC): Judge Judy Sheindlin... A schoolteacher (Dana Delany) copes with a debilitating illness in the 1996 drama, "For Hope" (7 p.m., ABC)... Major league all-star players compete in the annual "Home Run Derby" (7 p.m., Eastern, ESPN), live from Turner Field in Atlanta.
Jamie Ross (Carey Lowell) returns as opposing counsel on a repeat "Law & Order" (8 p.m., NBC).
Scheduled on "48 Hours" (9 p.m., CBS): a detective's attempt to save a death-row inmate... Old feelings resurface after Lily's father's accident on a repeat of "Once and Again" (9 p.m., ABC).
A roadside monstrosity on "The League of Gentleman" (9:30 p.m., Comedy Central).
A psychic claims he helps people communicate with the dearly departed on the new nightly series, "Crossing Over with John Edward" (10 p.m., Sci Fi).
Steve Buscemi and Catherine Keener star in the 1995 comedy, "Living in Oblivion" (1:30 a.m., Encore), about the frustrations of low-budget filmmaking.
"Big Brother" is new... Stuck inside on "Big Brother" (7 p.m., CBS)... Jackie's big scare on "That '70s Show" (7 p.m., Fox)... Dorian's lie on "Moesha" (7 p.m., UPN)... Mary's coach cracks the whip on "7th Heaven" (7 p.m., WB).
Doug becomes a big brother on "King of Queens" (7:30 p.m., CBS)... Christopher's big scare on "Titus" (7:30 p.m., Fox)... Nikki doesn't feel like Daddy's little girl on "The Parkers" (7:30 p.m., UPN).
Debra wants some time alone on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (8 p.m., CBS)... Ling's house is not a home on "Ally McBeal" (8 p.m., Fox)... Dispensing love advice on "Grown Ups" (8 p.m., UPN)... Temperatures rise on "Roswell" (8 p.m., WB).
A recorded slip of the tongue on "Becker" (8:30 p.m., CBS)... Money woes on "Malcolm & Eddie" (8:30 p.m., UPN)... A shooting sparks an outrage on "Third Watch" (9 p.m., NBC).
All are new... Actor John Travolta and the cast of "Kiss Me Kate" appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS)... Jay Leno hosts zookeeper Julie Scardina, comedian Willie Barcena and musical guest Everclear on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).
Bill Maher hosts columnist Betsy Hart on "Politically Incorrect" (11:05 a.m., ABC).
Actress Mira Sorvino, actor Jack Black and musical guest Elliott Smith appear on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" (11:35 a.m., NBC)... Sportscaster Bob Costas, actress Laura Prepon and guitarist Peter Frampton are booked on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 a.m., CBS).