Featuring a story and a fan fascination as old as Hollywood, “Showbiz Kids” (9 p.m., HBO, TV-MA) offers a wealth of interviews with former child actors who reflect on their unique experience and what they gained and lost by becoming beloved celebrities before they could master long division.
Written and directed by former child actor Alex Winter (“Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”), the film includes interviews with Henry Thomas (“E.T.”), Mara Wilson (“Mrs. Doubtfire”), Todd Bridges (“Diff’rent Strokes”), the late Cameron Boyce (“Jessie”), Milla Jovovich, Evan Rachel Wood, Jada Pinkett Smith, Wil Wheaton and others.
We all know that not every child actor grows up happy or enjoys continued success like Ron Howard, who went from “Andy Griffith” and “Happy Days” to a decades-long career as a director. Peter Billingsley, famous for playing Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” grew up to direct the 2009 comedy “Couples Retreat” (8:30 p.m., E!, TV-PG).
Even former child actors who later enjoyed long careers have harrowing tales. Jackie Coogan, famous for playing Uncle Fester on “The Addams Family,” starred in early silent movies, including Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid.” Later, he had to sue his own mother to stop her from swindling his earnings, inspiring California to enact legislation, known as the Coogan Act, protecting child actors from predatory adults.
Even Shirley Temple, history’s most beloved child star, did not emerge unscathed. Before her fame, she was cast in shorts including “Baby Burlesks,” starring preschool children in roles that seem distinctly creepy from any perspective.
— Once again, “Frontline” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) distinguishes itself from most TV “news” coverage. More than 17 years after the American invasion of Iraq and the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime, the feature “Once Upon a Time in Iraq” asks Iraqis what they thought of the events.
The two-hour film takes us from the 2003 invasion to the expulsion of Isis from Iraq. Some of the participants were teenage participants in a televised “town hall” on the eve of the invasion. They look back at themselves, eagerly awaiting the arrival of American pop culture and Backstreet Boys CDs. One young woman was only 6 when the Americans arrived. She’s spent her entire life in war, occupation, civil war and chaos. We also meet a woman who saw her village decimated by Saddam, and a former colleague of the Iraqi leader, who admits to missing Saddam “every minute of every day.”
The chats with the former town hall participants are the most accessible and heart-breaking. Nobody had to win their hearts and minds. They loved America. One man ruefully reflects on the missed opportunities, saying that “little things,” like working electricity, dignity, running water and the remote prospect of a job, would have pacified the country. Instead, bombing and occupation reduced ancient Baghdad to a looted “city of garbage.”
— TV-themed DVDs available today include AMC’s “Ride With Norman Reedus.”
TONIGHT’S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
— Ewan McGregor stars in the 2019 Stephen King shocker “Doctor Sleep” (6:25 p.m., HBO Signature), continuing themes explored in “The Shining.”
— Auditions continue on “America’s Got Talent” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
— Only 12 remain on “Hell’s Kitchen” (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).
— “20/20” (8 p.m., ABC) presents “The Last Defense: Julius Jones,” examining a man on Oklahoma’s death row who insists on his innocence.
— Director Bertrand Tavernier surveys great films and directors in the 2016 documentary “My Journey Through French Cinema” (8 p.m., TCM).
— A training exercise rattles Kristen on “FBI” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).
— A comedian reflects on some colorful tales from her past on “Alice Wetterlund: My Mama Is a Human and So Am I” (9 p.m., CW, r, TV-14).
— A prison sentence gives Betty (Amanda Peet) time to reflect as “Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story” (10 p.m., USA, TV-14) concludes.
— A mother’s rage erupts on “FBI: Most Wanted” (10 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).
— Duels continue on “World of Dance” (10 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
— John Quinones hosts “What Would You Do?” (10 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
A modern-day Manhattan woman (Meg Ryan) falls in love with a 19th-century duke (Hugh Jackman) in the 2001 romance “Kate & Leopold” (7:30 p.m., Showcase).
A pilot vanishes on “NCIS” (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) … Courtney’s suggestion raises eyebrows on “DC’s Stargirl” (8 p.m., CW, TV-PG) … Malcolm faces certain danger on “Prodigal Son” (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
Tom Hanks, Noah Cyrus and Billy Ray Cyrus are booked on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” (11:35 p.m., CBS) … Demi Moore, Paul Scheer and KALEO visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (12:35 a.m., NBC).