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It’s a good week to practice watching documentary television. Not only will we need to be in serious shape if a long writers’ strike chokes off our narrative transfusions of fun and guns, but PBS is between pledge periods—meaning there’s something more to see on Channel 13 than Cousin Brucie and the palsied doo-wops. For instance: “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial” (November 13, 8 p.m.), a two-hour episode of Nova that goes to court with parents, teachers, and politicians from Dover, Pennsylvania, to decide whether a public-school science curriculum must give equal time to Darwin and wishful thinking. In this rerun of the Scopes trial, Judge John E. Jones III, all by himself, adds up to more than William Jennings Bryan, H.L. Mencken, and Clarence Darrow combined. Athens: The Dawn of Democracy (November 19, 9 p.m.) allows classical historian Bettany Hughes to be counterintuitive about everybody’s favorite city-state. As often as they went to plays, Athenians also went to war. Women, foreigners, and slaves never got to vote. Without silver mines, and slaves to mine them, there would have been neither Parthenon nor empire. Socrates, about whom Hughes is a hagiographic simp, they shut up with a cup of hemlock. She seems almost to be rooting for Alex the Great. “On Our Watch” (November 20, 9 p.m.) rounds up diplomats, refugees, and historians—including Alex de Waal, James Traub, and Samantha Power—to explain to Frontline why, so soon after Rwanda, the world permitted the murder of at least 200,000 Africans, the dispossession of millions, and mass rape by “camel-borne Cossacks” in eastern Sudan. Oil, China, Russia, race, and religion are involved, plus an impotent U.N. and a posturing U.S.


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