On the eve of Good Friday, two programs offer differing views on the nature of faith -- as different as their respective titles.

"Jesus: Rise to Power" (8 p.m., National Geographic, TV-14) takes a three-hour look at how a religion based on the teachings of an obscure figure from a backward corner of the Roman-ruled world would, in just four centuries, become the official faith of that crumbling empire and the defining culture of Europe and much of the world in the succeeding two millennia.

"Fall to Grace" (8 p.m., HBO) also examines the relationship between religion and power. New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey's meteoric political rise came to an abrupt end in 2004 when a blackmailer forced him to admit to his wife, to his supporters and to the world that he was, in his words, "a gay American."

His out-of-the-blue revelation and subsequent messy divorce reduced McGreevey to a tabloid punch line. The sight of his mortified wife at his valedictory press conference was among the images that would provide inspiration for the CBS drama "The Good Wife."

"Fall to Grace" follows McGreevey as he tries to redefine himself. He left the Roman Catholic Church to study at an Episcopal seminary, trained for the priesthood and now works as a counselor for addicted women in a New Jersey prison.

No stranger to politicians, director Alexandra Pelosi ("Journeys With George") captures McGreevey as he walks the streets of Newark and the wards of institutions, greeting every stranger like an old friend. Mc-

Greevey admits the talent for connection and the need for acceptance and adulation that drive a politician can also work for a pastor. Or lead to one's downfall. He appears to have a genuine connection to the female prisoners and their struggles with drug addiction. And they, in turn, can relate to McGreevey's own story and his attempt to forge a meaningful second act.

Pelosi has shed the snarky attitude of some of her earlier films, allowing McGreevey to emerge as a penitent. With his close-cropped hair and thoughtful demeanor, he looks like a medieval friar or a once-powerful man on a long, singular road to

redemption.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

---The NCAA Basketball Tournament (7 p.m., CBS; 7:30, TBS).

---Results and evictions on "American Idol" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

---On two episodes of "1600 Penn" (NBC, TV-PG): a royal visit (8:30 p.m.), a casual comment casts doubt on the president's marriage (9:30 p.m.). The second epi-

sode is the season finale.

---A musical, hourlong season finale on "Raising Hope" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

---A gas tanker explosion fills the hospital beds on "Grey's Anatomy" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

---A visit to the Guggenheim offers inspiration on "Project Runway" (9 p.m., Lifetime, TV-PG).

---Doyle's daughter is kidnapped on "Scandal" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

CULT CHOICE

Fans of George Clooney can watch him in the 1997 comic book adaptation "Batman & Robin" (8 p.m., G4), the 2000 shipwreck epic "The Perfect Storm" (8 p.m., IFC) or the 2000 adaptation of "The Odyssey," "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (10:45 p.m., IFC).

SERIES NOTES

---A liberal and a conservative switch places on "Wife Swap" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

---A surprise encounter in a small town on "The Vam pire Diaries" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14).

---A job interview reminds Pam of the past on "The Office" (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG).

---Cat has to open up on "Beauty and the Beast" (9 p.m., CW, TV-PG).

LATE NIGHT

---Denise Kiernan is scheduled on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" (11 p.m., Comedy Central).

---Ricky Gervais, Deepak Chopra and Imagine Dragons appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS, r).

---Gerard Butler, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Heather McDonald and Matt Braunger are booked on "Chelsea Lately" (11 p.m., E!, r).

---Robert Lustig sits down on "The Colbert Report" (11:30 p.m., Comedy Central).

---Sylvester Stallone and Al Gore appear on "Late Show With David Letter man" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r, time approximate due to basketball coverage).

---Jay Leno welcomes Kim Kardashian, Willie Geist and Imagine Dragons on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC).

---Dwayne Johnson, Saoirse Ronan and Kendrick Lamar appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC).

---Tyler Perry, Nick Offerman, Thom Filicia and Blake Shelton visit "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC).

---Craig Ferguson hosts Betty White and Morena Baccarin on "The Late Late Show" (1:35 a.m., CBS, r, time approximate due to basketball coverage).

Kevin McDonough can be reached at kevin.tvguy@g mail.com.