It’s a little sad to note that in a culture with an ever-shortening attention span, there are few places to appreciate art and storytelling in the short form. Popular magazines dedicated to short stories have all but vanished. The anthology series on television is as dead as “Night Gallery,” and it seems a short movie or animated film has to get nominated for an Oscar to receive any attention at all.
Tonight’s “P.O.V.” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) offers us a glimpse at what we’re missing with four short, lyrical films about offbeat subjects that seem best suited to the truncated take.
“34x25x36” visits a mannequin factory where musings on the female form range from crass commercialism to something more exalted. One department-store dummy-maker with the soul of a poet sees his calling linked to that of sculptors who filled the churches of Europe with statuary.
“Utopia, Part 3: The World’s Largest Shopping Mall” offers a tale of consumer-culture overkill in a country not quite ready to go shopping. When developers near Guangzhou, China, decided to build a mall, they decided to leave Mall of America and Las Vegas in the dust. They didn’t expect zero customers to show up. Fearing national disgrace, the Chinese government stepped in to keep the South China Mall open, where thousands of sleepy employees toil in a gleaming ghost town.
A tale of ecology, culture and squirrels, “Nutkin’s Last Stand” looks at efforts in northern England to rid the woods of invasive gray squirrels who have threatened the very existence of their native red cousins, celebrated by Beatrix Potter and beloved by many. We spend time with poachers who have put a price on every gray head and visit a posh restaurant where a gourmet squirrel pancake appears on the menu.
Arguably the most visually beautiful of the quartet, “City of Cranes” offers a breathtaking view of crane operators at London’s many building sites. More than one interviewee likens his job to 19th-century seamen who spent their days atop the masts and rigging of sailing ships. They exult in the bird’s-eye view of their city and the sense of solitude and time for daydreaming that their profession affords. One worker describes the sight of his cranes at work as a kind of ballet, but then backtracks, knowing that his colleagues would never forgive him if he tried to sound that arty.
• “The Secret Lives of Women” (9 p.m., WE) returns for a fifth season of profiles of seemingly ordinary women with remarkable stories and secrets.
The season opener looks at the enduring maternal bonds between women and their sons, even when their little boys have grown up to be convicted murderers.
Future installments look at women in cults, on extreme diets, mail-order brides and former hostages.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Three hours of “America’s Got Talent” (7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., NBC).
• The cosmic astronomy series “The Universe” (8 p.m., History) returns.
• The spa who loved me on “More to Love” (8 p.m., Fox).
• A football star takes on a basketball star on “Shaq Vs.” (8 p.m., ABC).
• Scheduled on “Nova ScienceNow” (8 p.m., PBS): privacy and genome studies; algae as fuel.
• A samurai sword needs rescuing on “Warehouse 13” (8 p.m., SyFy).
• A stalker wants Allison stopped on “Medium” (9 p.m., CBS).