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Archive for Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tears, fraud and human nature

April 17, 2012

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The documentary “The Woman Who Wasn’t There” (7 p.m., ID) recalls one of the stranger stories to emerge from the ashes of 9/11, exploring the more curious corners of human nature along the way.

The terror attacks of 2001 created many victims, heroes and survivors. And few survivors’ accounts seemed as tragic as Tania Head’s. She described her ordeal of being badly burned as she crawled from the World Trade Center’s South Tower only to discover that her fiance had died in the North Tower. She was recognized by New York Mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg and became president of the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network.

In 2007, a New York Times journalist began poking into the details of her remarkable story. And it quickly unraveled. She didn’t escape the buildings that day. She wasn’t in New York that day. She wasn’t even in the United States that day.

This film began as a documentary about 9/11 survivors, and its makers approached Head before they learned of her bizarre hoax. So viewers of “The Woman Who Wasn’t There” watch as Head is confronted by the hard facts, which takes the film on a strange detour into the psychology of deception.

This is hardly a recent phenomenon. The great 1937 screwball comedy “Nothing Sacred” stars Carole Lombard as a Vermont woman “dying” of radium poisoning who becomes the toast of Manhattan after cynical newspapermen try to boost circulation with her pathetic tale. They think they are exploiting her, when she, of course, was faking all the time.

• Speaking of nothing new, “Amish: Out of Order” (9 p.m., National Geographic) becomes the latest series to explore the world of young people fleeing a regimented religious life.

• “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” (9 p.m., HBO) profiles manager Joe Maddon, who has repeatedly taken his small-budget Tampa Bay Rays to the postseason.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Results and elimination on “The Voice” (8 p.m., NBC).

• Adventures in baby-sitting on “New Girl” (8 p.m., Fox).

• Results on “Dancing With the Stars” (8 p.m., ABC).

• Bridget tells Andrew the truth on the season finale of “Ringer” (8 p.m.).

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