Woody Harrelson narrates "Reel Radicals: The Sixties Revolution in Film" (9 p.m., AMC), a perceptive look at a generation of young directors who challenged Hollywood's escapist fare with gritty, realistic movies that reflected a turbulent decade. Contributors include John Frankenheimer ("The Manchurian Candidate"), Norman Jewison ("In the Heat of the Night"), Buck Henry ("The Graduate"), Dennis Hopper ("Easy Rider"), Paul Mazursky ("Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice"), John Schlesinger ("Midnight Cowboy"), Arthur Penn ("Bonnie and Clyde") and Roger Corman ("The Trip").
To call their film work revolutionary is almost an understatement. In a scant four years, audience tastes and movie mores changed completely. In 1965 the family favorite "The Sound of Music" topped the box office and won the Oscar for Best Picture. Just four years later, the award went to the X-rated "Midnight Cowboy," a grim account of two miserable hustlers. Viewers shunned expensive musicals like "Hello Dolly!" to flock to biker movies like "Easy Rider." Fox, MGM and other studios teetered on bankruptcy when they failed to keep up with changing tastes.
As "Reel Radicals" makes clear, many of the directors who changed Hollywood in the 1960s worked as New York-based TV directors during the 1950s. During the first half of that decade, the big studios' chiefs hated television, which was competing with giant Technicolor spectaculars like "The Ten Commandments." They also refused to produce material for the new medium. In that vacuum, New York talent (including Sidney Lumet, not seen here) turned out acclaimed teleplays for "Playhouse 90" and other venues. Many of the best dramas of the 1950s, including "Marty," "Twelve Angry Men" and "The Days of Wine and Roses" were originally produced for television.
As Paul Mazursky observes, these TV-trained filmmakers of the 1950s and '60s paved the way for the next generation of film-school trained directors like Francis Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. Let's hope AMC follows up "Reel Radicals" with a look at the films of the 1970s.
l In 1980 Bill Murray starred in "Caddyshack," easily the funniest golf movie of all time. Heck, it was one of the funniest comedies of all time. Now, Bill rounds up his brothers Brian Doyle, Joel and John Murray to star in "The Sweet Spot" (9 p.m., Comedy Central), a five-episode series which follows the Murrays on the links as they compete at luxurious golf resorts. "The Sweet Spot," which mixes sibling rivalry, sketch comedy and golf fantasies, never quite manages to become amusing. It's a little like watching somebody else's home movies, or worse, tagging behind a chatty foursome.
Tonight's other highlights
Lorelai and Sookie bicker over business on a repeat "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB).
Will one of the world's most romantic spots disappear below sea level? "NOVA" (7 p.m., PBS) presents the documentary "The Sinking City of Venice."
Physical comedy abounds as Edgar and Ben compete on the Tango floor on "Watching Ellie" (7:30 p.m., NBC). In a second episode (8:30 p.m.), Ben tries to retrieve a romantic gift.
Andy discovers that the girl of his dreams is a raging bigot on "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" (7:30 p.m., Fox).
Palmer considers his options on "24" (8 p.m., Fox).
l Clark's dad makes demands on "NYPD Blue" (8 p.m., ABC).
The four-hour miniseries "Egypt: Land of the Gods" (8 p.m., History) examines the 5,000-year history of the Nile kingdom and the many religions it inspired.
Vandals wreck the Gray house on "Judging Amy" (9 p.m., CBS).
Nolan's clerks let her down on "The Court" (9 p.m., ABC).
Mackey negotiates a feud between rappers and their gangster pals on "The Shield" (9 p.m.).