The past is ever present in "Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States" (8 p.m., Showtime), now in its second week.
Historical works with words such as "secret" or "unknown" in the title often have a suspicious, conspira-
torial 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 decades-long 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
In doing this, Stone is not so much making new arguments as returning to old ones from the late 1940s, arguments that have faded and yellowed like newspapers in the years since.
"Untold History" is a deadly serious and didactic effort. It almost seems that Stone wants viewers to take notes during his hourlong
dictation. It's a curious effort from a filmmaker who's known for far more emotional forms of
---The two-part Ken Burns documentary "The Dust Bowl" (8 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," as well as director John Ford's epic screen adaptation of that work. A generation later, country singer Merle Haggard was still celebrating the Okies in popular songs, including "Okie From Muskogee" and "Mama's Hungry Eyes," an elegiac song about dreams dashed in a "crowded labor camp."
---The top 10 compete on "The Voice" (8 p.m., NBC).
---A professional crime-scene cleaner gets a little too close to the job on "Bones" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
---The deaths of innocent
bystanders seem like an ominous warning on "The Mob Doctor" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
---The San Francisco 49ers host the Chicago Bears on "Monday Night Football" (8:30 p.m., ESPN).
---"The Layover With An- thony Bourdain" (9 p.m., Travel) enters its second season with a stop in Chicago.
---A hacker's death does not compute on "Hawaii Five-0" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
---Reality and fantasy begin to blur on "Revolution" (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
---A disastrous dinner leads to a desperate attempt to protect a vital witness on "Castle" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
Ricardo Montalban steals the show in the 1982 sequel "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (8 p.m., IFC).
---An old pal needs a job on "How I Met Your Mother" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
---Liam and Lindsey keep it on the down low on "90210" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14).
---Ali and Joe have very different friends on "Partners" (8:30 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
---Rumspringa springs eternal on "2 Broke Girls" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
---Blair's mother overwhelms on "Gossip Girl" (9 p.m., CW, TV-14).
---Molly would just as soon chicken out on cooking the big turkey on "Mike & Molly" (9:30 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
---Kate Beckinsale, Doug Fine and Tennis appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS, r).
---Jessica Biel, Pete Townshend and Phillip Phillips appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" (11:35 p.m., CBS).
---Jay Leno welcomes Jennifer Lawrence, Phil and Willie Robertson and Andy Grammer on "The To night Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC).
---Eric Stonestreet, L.A. Reid, Aimee Mann and James Mercer appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (midnight, ABC).
---Zooey Deschanel, Tony
Bennett and Zac Brown Band visit "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC).
---Craig Ferguson hosts Regis Philbin and Katie Aselton on "The Late Late Show" (12:35 a.m., CBS).
Kevin McDonough can be reached at email@example.com.