Veteran actors Helen Mirren and Jeremy Irons bring their considerable gifts to the two-part miniseries "Elizabeth I" (7 p.m. today, HBO, concludes Monday), a visually opulent and powerfully written (by novelist Nigel Williams) account of England's "virgin" queen during the second half of her reign.
"Elizabeth I" begins with court physicians examining her royal personage to determine whether she can still bear an heir. Pressured by her court to strike a strategic alliance with France, she allows herself to be wooed by the Duke of Anjou (Jeremie Covillault). But while she appears smitten with the younger man, her court worries that the marriage will help return Catholic rule to the Protestant kingdom.
Irons brings his patented air of passionate dissipation to the role of the Earl of Leicester, Elizabeth's lifelong friend, lover and confidant. The scenes between Mirren and Irons don't so much smolder as crackle. They have a prickly relationship fueled by consistent, if occasionally brutal, honesty. Both performers make the most of the script's earnest attempts to approximate the poetic language of the day.
l "Too Hot Not To Handle" (6 p.m. today, HBO) offers a survey course in causes and effects of global warming. Scientists discuss trends including the threefold increase in deadly heat waves in the United States since 1950, the 5-degree increase in the average temperature in Hawaii, the melting of the ice-caps, rising sea levels and the increase in the frequency and severity of hurricanes.
l A meteorite crashes into a natural history museum, awakening the ancient ire of peeved pachyderm in the 2006 thriller "Mammoth" (8 p.m. today, Sci Fi). Tom Skerritt ("Picket Fences") stars as a B-movie buff who helps a scientist and his daughter track down the rampaging critter.
l Marcia Gay Harden ("Pollock") stars in the 2006 TV drama "In From the Night" (8 p.m. Sunday, CBS), as Vicki Miller, a would-be novelist who has her orderly life blown away by the arrival of her disturbed young nephew, Bobby (Taylor Handley, "The O.C.").
¢ Scheduled on "48 Hours Mystery" (7 p.m., CBS): recalling Marilyn Monroe's last night.
¢ Scheduled on "Dateline" (7 p.m., NBC): murder on Sam Donaldson's ranch.
¢ Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): more evidence that the Bush White House ignored inconvenient facts about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction; the dangers of anti-aging treatments; the Starbucks coffee chain.
¢ Scheduled on "Dateline" (6 p.m., NBC): plans to cope with a pandemic.
¢ Bartlet and Santos lock horns over foreign policy on "The West Wing" (7 p.m., NBC).
¢ A buffet disaster inspires a never-ending story on "The Simpsons" (7 p.m., Fox).
¢ Artie's eatery loses its luster on "The Sopranos" (8 p.m., HBO).