Who ever dreamed that a soap opera star would appear on "Nova" (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings)? The sober and scholarly science series goes to great lengths to dramatize the story of Typhoid Mary, in the provocative installment "The Most Dangerous Woman in America."
"Dangerous" takes place at the turn of the 20th century, when treatment of infectious diseases was in its infancy. A sudden outbreak of typhoid in a wealthy family vacationing on Long Island's Oyster Bay shocked many and resulted in frantic medical detective work. Scientist George Sopher (played by Jere Shea in frequent re-enactments) traced the infection to the family's Irish immigrant cook Mary Mallon (played by Marian Tomas Griffin, "As the World Turns").
Sopher's investigations linked Mallon to a series of typhoid outbreaks. The cook, played here as a feisty, knife-wielding colleen, violently objected to Sopher's allegations, arguing that she had never been sick with the disease. Mallon was eventually quarantined in an island asylum for TB patients on New York's East River. This decision raised questions about civil liberties that reverberate to this day. Mallon argued that she was the only healthy person incarcerated and that she had been denied legal due process. Her story became fodder for the era's tabloid newspapers, which coined the moniker "Typhoid Mary" that would haunt her to the grave.
- "Manhunt: The Search for America's Most Gorgeous Top Model" (9 p.m., Bravo) follows the beefy, six-pack-ab set through a series of auditions and catwalks. It's just like "America's Top Model," except this time it's hosted by Carmen Electra.
- "Frontline" (8 p.m., PBS) presents "The Choice," dual biographies of President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry. This marks the fifth election year presentation of "The Choice," an in-depth look at the character-building moments in each contender's life. Producers Martin Smith and Nicholas Lemann avoid political sound bites and offer comments from friends, family, colleagues and past political adversaries.
Tonight's other highlights
- Game No. 1 of the American League Championship Series (7 p.m., Fox).
- All politics is local on "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB).
- Mountain climbers are kidnapped by al-Qaida terrorists on "Expeditions to the Edge" (7 p.m., National Geographic).
- A stadium slumber party on "Clubhouse" (8 p.m., CBS).