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Archive for Saturday, May 17, 2003

Miniseries abridges Hitler’s formative years

May 17, 2003

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When I was a child, I was hooked on Classics Illustrated comic books. They condensed great books like "Great Expectations" and "Caesar's Conquests" into "Superman"-size portions. They were short on subtlety and nuance, but they got the story across lickety-split.

The same can be said of the new network miniseries "Hitler: The Rise of Evil" (8 p.m. Sunday, CBS, concludes Tuesday).

"Hitler" moves fast. He rises from weird boy to bad artist to Nazi dictator in the space of four hours. His mom (Stockard Channing) barely survives long enough to get through the opening credits. The young, self-absorbed Hitler (Robert Carlyle) sees her cancer death as an impediment to his artistic career.

During his down-and-out period as an art student in cosmopolitan Vienna, Hitler begins to absorb the anti-Semitic rhetoric of street orators and local politicians. And although we might understand why this wrapped-too-tightly, Wagner-obsessed narcissist could succumb to such a hateful virus, we're never shown why his fellow Austrians and Germans become infected. At first, strangers snicker as he rants about Jews and foreigners. During World War I, his fellow soldiers, some of them Jews, frequently tell him to shut up.

But after the war, when Hitler returns to the ruins of his beloved -- and in his mind, betrayed -- Germany, his hateful harangues begin to find an audience. Why? We never know. Like my old Classics Illustrated comics, "Hitler" dutifully relates the story (and showcases some comic book-worthy dialogue), but never gets inside the mystery of its main character.

  • "King of the Hill" (6:30 p.m. Sunday, Fox) wraps up its seventh season with its 150th animated episode. One of the more underappreciated shows on television, "King" is still one of the few comedies that dares to depict life outside the confines of New York or Hollywood. What other show has so much fun poking fun at Wal-Mart -- or, rather, Mega Lo Mart?
  • It seems like only yesterday that the tire heir Andrew Firestone greeted several limo-loads of willing lovelies. Now the winery-owning MBA gets to choose between only two worthies on the two-hour conclusion of "The Bachelor" (8 p.m. Sunday, ABC).

Today's highlights

  • "Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls" (10:30 a.m., NBC) debuts. You're never too young to appreciate a good sconce.
  • Tim Allen and the gang reunite for "A User's Guide to Home Improvement" (7 p.m., ABC).
  • Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu star in the 2000 adaptation of "Charlie's Angels" (8 p.m., ABC).
  • Jean Smart and Jaclyn Smith guest star on the third-season finale of "The District" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • A rescue mission may cost Terri her life on the second-season finale of "The Agency" (9 p.m., CBS).
  • Dan Aykroyd is host of the 28th-season finale of "Saturday Night Live" (10:30 p.m., NBC), featuring musical guest Beyonce.

Sunday's other highlights

  • "35 Years and 60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS) recalls interviews past.
  • Brendan Fraser stars in the 1999 thriller "The Mummy" (6 p.m., WB).
  • Riots break out on the season finale of "American Dreams" (7 p.m., NBC).
  • "True Hollywood Story" (7 p.m., E!) profiles comedian, film star, director and telethon stalwart Jerry Lewis.
  • On back-to-back episodes of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC), medical malpractice (8 p.m.), anthrax fears (9 p.m., season finale).
  • The adaptation of Zadie Smith's novel "White Teeth" concludes on "Masterpiece Theatre" (8 p.m., PBS).

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