You don’t have to love cartoons to appreciate “Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood” (7 p.m., TCM). This wonderful film combines footage of one of Jones’ (1912-2002) final interviews with period newsreels and personal photographs, as well as original animation and cartoon classics from the Golden Age of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.
The creator of Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, Pepe Le Pew, Road Runner and the Coyote, Jones recalls his childhood growing up in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. He was too young to realize that not every child could sneak down the street to watch Charlie Chaplin make one-reel comedies or see Mary Pickford lead a World War II bond drive past his front porch.
Jones also recalls his family’s relative poverty and how his mother and uncle would fill him with dreams that his violent father would crush. But each of his father’s many failed businesses came with a new batch of business stationery and Ticonderoga pencils — a mountain of drawing paper for a budding cartoonist.
“Childhood” provides insight into the personalities and psychology of many of Jones’ two-dimensional creations. But it is best appreciated for the memories of a creative force, a man happy to spend some of his twilight moments recalling his formative years. In this sweet, valedictory film, Jones admits to aches and pains but never to feeling old. And, he admits, but never boasts, that he’s never been bored a day in his life.
• A presidential news conference (7 p.m., ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, CNN, Fox News, CNBC) scrambles the TV schedule in ways large and small. “American Idol” will not be seen tonight and will air on Wednesday and Thursday. CBS and NBC will move up its schedule by an hour, pre-empting its regular 9 p.m. shows “Without a Trace” and “Law & Order SVU.” ABC seems to have profited most, having an excuse to postpone the largely unanticipated return of “According to Jim.”
• Any discussion of the budget, health care and bailouts will only add urgency to the new “Frontline” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) report “10 Trillion and Counting” a look at the rapid growth and very recent explosion in federal debt arising from the fiscal policies of the Bush administration and the more recent need to bail out banks, prop up companies and buy toxic assets. Experts here argue that ballooning debt will constrain the current and any future administrations.
Tonight’s other highlights
• “Cruise Inc.” (8 p.m., CNBC) looks at the sea-going vacation business.
• Murder attends a retreat for corporate bigwigs on “The Mentalist” (8 p.m., CBS).
• Scheduled on “Primetime” (9 p.m., ABC): What would you do?
• A trip to the tank olympics on “Wreckreation Nation” (9 p.m., Discovery).
TCM dedicates the night to the works of cartoonist Chuck Jones, whose masterpieces include “One Froggy Evening” (8:40 p.m., TCM), a tale of a singing amphibian that inspired the logo for the WB network; the astounding Wagnerian spoof “What’s Opera, Doc?” (8:50 p.m.); and “The Dot and the Line” (9 p.m.), an avant-garde romantic comedy about geometry that won an Oscar in 1965.