Nominated for an Academy Award in the category of documentary short, "Two Hands" (6 p.m., Cinemax) profiles a remarkable talent and poses questions about how little we know about the workings of the human mind and body.
A child prodigy, pianist Leon Fleisher seemed all but washed up by 37 when suddenly and without explanation, two fingers on his right hand curled into a ball. The musical gift that had defined him had been taken away.
Depression followed a ruined marriage and a succession of therapies and remedies from ESP to alcohol. After a long funk, Fleisher discovered and mastered one-handed musical pieces composed for a wealthy piano talent who had lost his right arm in World War I. He became a great conductor and acclaimed teacher.
Not to be too Dr. Phil about it, but the maestro had turned his lemons into lemonade.
More recently, a surgery on his wrist and injections involving Botox have given him use of his right hand for the first time in decades. His return to the recital hall merited front-page attention.
Yet Fleisher wonders whether his setbacks and suffering haven't left him a better man and a better musician.
The true miracle of "Two Hands" is its remarkable economy. "Two Hands" tells a fascinating story, with a beginning, middle and thought-provoking end, and clocks in at less than 16 minutes.
As someone who believes firmly that nearly every popular movie released in the past two decades has been at least a half hour too long, I salute "Two Hands" for its beautiful brevity.
¢ Now in their lucky 13th year, the X Games debut tonight (8 p.m., ESPN). More than 14 hours of X Games coverage will be broadcast through Sunday on ESPN, ABC, ESPN2 and any number of online streams and blog wrap-ups. This year's games will include something called Moto X racing. According to a release from ESPN, Moto X racing will join hitherto broadcast disciplines, including Freestyle, Step Up, Best Trick and SuperMoto.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ Randy and Earl make things right with the local media on "My Name is Earl" (7 p.m., NBC).
¢ An emotional blizzard moves into town on "Ugly Betty" (7 p.m., ABC).
¢ Liz clicks with a handsome stranger on "30 Rock" (7:30 p.m., NBC).
¢ Michael lectures at Ryan's business school on "The Office" (8 p.m., NBC).
¢ Four murders unfold from the victims' perspectives on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).
¢ The contestants dwindle from eight to six on "So You Think You Can Dance" (8 p.m., Fox).
¢ The contestants face their first supervillain on "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" (8 p.m., Sci Fi).
¢ Sneaky Pete returns from his honeymoon on "Mad Men" (9 p.m., AMC).
¢ Craig David, James Morrison and Dave Matthews appear on "Live From Abbey Road" (9 p.m., Sundance).
¢ Our host takes on the manipulative powers of three used car salesmen on "Mind Control with Derren Brown" (9 p.m., Sci Fi).
¢ Blingstyles of the crass and tasteless on "Cribs" (9:30 p.m., MTV).
Matt Damon is scheduled on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (10 p.m., Comedy Central) ... Al Franken and Jackie Chan are booked on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno hosts Claire Danes, Bob Sagat and Grace Potter and the Nocturnes on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).