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Archive for Monday, November 19, 2012

Tune In Tonight: History, as you don’t remember it

November 19, 2012

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The past is ever present in “Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States” (7 p.m., Showtime), now in its second week. Historical works with words such as “secret” or “unknown” in the title often have a suspicious, conspiratorial ring to them. Add to this the name of Oliver Stone — a man who has made a career out of highly charged and propagandistic efforts, most notably “JFK” — and I was convinced that we drive this historical highway at our own risk.

Given such misgivings, I was both surprised and a little underwhelmed by Stone’s “Untold History.” For starters, it lacks the passionate bombast you’d expect from the director of “The Doors.” It’s a 10-part history series filled with a wealth of newsreel footage and offering a counter-narrative to the accepted version of World War II and its aftermath. Particular attention is paid to America’s tenuous alliance with the Soviet Union and the subsequent split with the Russians, resulting in the Cold War.

Whether or not you agree with his history, Stone deserves great credit for challenging our decadeslong amnesia about many of these subjects. The vast majority of TV histories about the “greatest generation” and World War II usually ignore that the Soviet army did most of the fighting — and dying — in the effort to defeat the Nazis. Stone also challenges the prevailing adoration of Harry Truman, dismissing him as a lightweight who carried water for reactionaries bent on destroying FDR’s legacy and betraying his policies.

• The two-part Ken Burns documentary “The Dust Bowl” (7 p.m., PBS) concludes with a look at the lingering effects of the calamity, including the Roosevelt administration’s efforts at soil conservation and reclamation. It also follows Dust Bowl exiles to California, where they became known as the dispossessed and often despised “Okies,” made famous by John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Tonight’s other highlights

• A professional crime-scene cleaner gets a little too close to the job on “Bones” (7 p.m., Fox).

• The San Francisco 49ers host the Chicago Bears on “Monday Night Football” (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

• A hacker’s death does not compute on “Hawaii Five-0” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Reality and fantasy blur on “Revolution” (9 p.m., NBC).

• A disastrous dinner leads to a desperate attempt to protect a vital witness on “Castle” (9 p.m., ABC).

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