TV special: I think we’re alone now

“Life After People” (8 p.m., History) uses special effects and extensive interviews to help us imagine the planet Earth in the hours, days, months and years after humans leave the scene.

The possible agents of human annihilation – plague, war, Rapture or robot uprising – are of no concern here. We’re simply confronted with the effects of our absence.

Without people to stoke the furnaces of fuel plants, the power grid goes dark in a matter of a few days. Underground tunnels fill with water within 48 hours.

How about our little furry companions? Dogs and cats that could get out of our houses would return to a feral state – with unpleasant results for the more pampered pets. Goodbye pugs. Parasites including mice, rats and even cockroaches that depended on the garbage, scraps and building heat provided by people would have a tough adjustment.

After a few years, most roads would be covered by plant life, and after a few more, would return to meadow. Special effects show neat scenes (evocative of “I Am Legend” and other grim fantasies) of bears and antelopes walking down the canyons of Manhattan.

In addition to computer graphics, “Life” visits a city in Ukraine that has become a spooky laboratory for the effects of depopulation. Abandoned after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the city and its surrounding countryside reveal how trees and vegetation attack apartment buildings from the outside, while ice crystals batter the concrete from within.

As radiation levels have declined, wild animals have returned in abundance, to cavort near the ruins of a children’s amusement park. For all of the computer graphics on display here, the footage of a rusting Ferris wheel proves the most haunting.

¢ Proof that some medical “miracles” do not stand the test of time can be found on “The American Experience” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) presentation “The Lobotomist,” a profile of Dr. Walter J. Freeman, who popularized a radical procedure to “cure” mental illness with the removal of the brain’s frontal lobe. The documentary shows how the use of publicity helped transform a rare and radical procedure into a widely accepted treatment.

Tonight’s other highlights

¢ Michael’s scheme unravels on “Prison Break” (7 p.m., Fox).

¢ The final teams perform on “Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann” (7 p.m., ABC).

¢ Things get crowded on “Everybody Hates Chris” (7 p.m., CW).

¢ The faux documentary series “The Naked Brothers Band” (7 p.m., Nickelodeon) enters a second season.

¢ Jessi flirts with indiscretion on “Kyle XY” (7 p.m., Family).

¢ Sarah may be closer to the inventor of the doomsday technology on “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (8 p.m., Fox).

¢ “Wildfire” (8 p.m., Family) enters season four.

¢ Allison’s gift may help Joe impress a potential employer on “Medium” (9 p.m., NBC).

¢ The first-person documentary series “True Life” (9 p.m., MTV) presents “I’m Happy to Be Fat.”

¢ “American Idealist: The Story of Sargent Shriver” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) profiles the driving force behind the Peace Corps, VISA, Head Start, Job Corps and other agencies.

Cult choice

Owing to a dispute over music rights, the director Charles Burnett’s 1977 drama “Killer of Sheep” (7 p.m., TCM) languished in obscurity for three decades. The National Film Registry has since recognized “Sheep.”