Tune in Tonight: ‘The Great War’ recalled

Told over two nights, “The Great War” (8 p.m., History, TV-14, concluding Tuesday) recalls America’s role in World War I. Executive produced by Robin Roberts (“Good Morning America”), it blends cinematic reenactments of battle scenes and moments on the home front with interviews with historians and military experts, including retired general and former CIA director David Petraeus.

By 1917, the European powers had been fighting a cataclysmic war and suffering millions of casualties. Americans were in no hurry to join them. For many, the Civil War and its mass slaughter remained a living memory. To put things in some perspective, we are now roughly as far removed from the fall of Saigon (1975) and the end of the Vietnam War as America’s entry into World War I was from Appomattox (1865).

The country’s ingrained isolationism was compounded by the composition of American society in 1917. German Americans were by far the largest immigrant group and were reluctant to wage war on their countrymen. Irish Americans had just seen the 1916 Easter Uprising in their home country and had little desire to fight for England.

Nevertheless, in April 1917, President Wilson asked Congress for a Declaration of War on Germany and its allies, and the United States was swept up in a patriotic fervor unseen since the Spanish American War.

“The Great War” pays particular attention to the role of African American soldiers, among them the crack fighting unit known as the “Harlem Hellfighters.” Lest anyone see this as a “woke” rewriting of history, the centrality of Black soldiers to the struggle is underscored by the fact that General John J. Pershing, the leader of the American Expeditionary Forces and the greatest military hero to emerge from the war, had the nickname, “Black Jack Pershing.” The moniker dated back to the 1880s when he was assigned to lead Black units known as “Buffalo Soldiers” in the American Southwest.

Another documentary look at “The Great War” is “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson’s 2018 effort “They Shall Not Grow Old.” Years in the making, it brought decaying black-and-white silent footage to life using state-of-the-art digital technology, colorization, historical voice-overs, audio reenactments and old-fashioned lip reading.

The result is a haunting evocation of a lost generation. Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw called it “visually staggering,” summoning up soldiers “like ghosts from a seance.” It can be rented on most digital platforms.

— Fox repeats the two-hour special “M*A*S*H: The Comedy That Changed Television” (8 p.m., TV-PG). It recalls the classic sitcom that aired on CBS from 1972-83 and how it emerged from the 1970s Robert Altman antiwar satire film of the same name and managed to offer wry commentary about the ongoing Vietnam War with its setting in the Korean conflict that raged from 1950-53.

The attitudes of the writers and characters in “M*A*S*H” reflect a bygone era of the American military and society as a whole, a time when young men were subject to a near universal draft that created a diverse armed forces comprised of decidedly reluctant warriors. The draft ended in 1973, only a year into the “M*A*S*H” phenomenon. Things have changed considerably in the half-century since.


— Seemingly perfect dolls get a lesson in the real world when they leave their playhouse paradise in the 2023 summer blockbuster “Barbie” (8 p.m., HBO).

— Vance reaches out to his son on “NCIS” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG).

— “Fallen Idols: Nick and Aaron Carter” (9 p.m., ID, TV-14) recalls scandals surrounding the singers.

— Resorts can be murder on “NCIS: Hawai’i” (10 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).


Colin Farrell plays a very unhappy draftee preparing for Vietnam service at a muggy Southern military base in the 2000 drama “Tigerland” (8 p.m., Flix). A gritty departure for director Joel Schumacher, best known for melodramatic fantasies like “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “The Lost Boys” and “Batman Forever.” An ensemble cast includes Shea Whigham and Michael Shannon (“Boardwalk Empire”).


On two episodes of “The Neighborhood” (CBS, r, TV-PG): infant-icipating (8 p.m.); redlining (8:30 p.m.) … “American Ninja Warrior” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) … “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune” (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) … “Celebrity Jeopardy!” (9 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) … “Weakest Link” (10 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) … “Press Your Luck” (10 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).


Jimmy Fallon welcomes Michael Phelps, Jon Glaser and Laufey on “The Tonight Show” (11:35 p.m., NBC, r) … Orlando Bloom and Ncuti Gatwa visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (12:35 a.m., NBC, r) … Taylor Tomlinson hosts “After Midnight” (12:35 a.m., CBS).