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Three wild, cool cats; exploring Alduous Huxley's 'Brave New World'; Texas' Ewings are back at ranch



"The Tale of Sweeney Todd" / 8 p.m. Showtime

Ben Kingsley cuts a menacing figure as the barbaric barber of Fleet Street in this atmospheric adaptation of the stage hit. Directed by John Schlesinger, this grisly tale of lust and larceny in turn-of-the-century London finds the callous Todd wielding a sharp razor at the shop where he slits the throats of his wealthy victims, using them as the secret ingredient in the popular meat pies baked by his partner in crime (Joanna Lumley of "Absolutely Fabulous"). Campbell Scott ("Dying Young") plays an American who uncovers the depraved arrangement.


"The Echo of Thunder" / 9 p.m. CBS

A farm family struggles to survive in the unforgiving Australian outback on this "Hallmark Hall of Fame" TV movie. Judy Davis and Jamey Sheridan play Gladwyn and Larry, the parents of three close-knit children who learn that Larry's 15-year-old daughter (Lauren Hewett) is coming to live with them after the death of his first wife. Upon arrival, Lara feels unwelcome in her new home after getting the cold shoulder from an insecure Gladwyn, who is threatened by Larry's memories of his former life in the city.


"Brave New World" / 9 p.m. NBC

In this TV movie based on the classic 1932 novel by Alduous Huxley, the future has no war, crime, disease or suffering. Everyone is genetically designed to fit into a civilized society, and propaganda fills the heads of children as they sleep. But love is a quaint notion and promiscuity is encouraged for adults such as Bernard (Peter Gallagher) and Lenina (Rya Kihlstedt). Enter John (Timothy Guinee), the Shakespeare-quoting "savage" who shows them the value of real happiness.


"Frank, Dean and Sammy: An Evening With the Rat Pack" / 8 p.m. TV Land

Sinatra, Martin and Davis sing, joke and have a grand time in what is the only known recorded concert showcasing the superstars. Dino kicks off the high-spirited 1965 show with "King of the Road" and "Everybody Loves Somebody," followed by Davis ("This Will Be My Shining Hour," "Who Can I Turn To?") and Ol' Blue Eyes ("Fly Me to the Moon," "Luck Be a Lady"). The 90-minute special, emceed by Johnny Carson as a last-minute replacement for an ailing Joey Bishop, was screened last year at the Museum of Television & Radio.


"Frank Capra's American Dream" / 7 p.m. AMC

Admirers of the idealistic director discuss his care and craftsmanship in this affecting documentary narrated by Ron Howard. Martin Scorsese lauds his "great storytelling." Peter Falk salutes his "fundamental appreciation of the actors." Capra, whose best films boasted a winning combination of comedy and sentiment, directed such screen gems as "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." He earned Oscars for "It Happened One Night" (1934), "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (1936) and "You Can't Take It With You" (1938), which follows at 8:35 p.m.


"The 33rd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards" / 8 p.m. CBS

Tim McGraw leads the field with seven nominations, including the categories of entertainer of the year and top male vocalist. Faith Hill, George Strait and Trisha Yearwood are other multiple nominees, with four nods apiece. LeAnn Rimes, Clint Black, Deana Carter and Garth Brooks, who will team up on a vocal duet with guitarist Steve Wariner, are among the performers. Tracy Byrd, Kathy Mattea, Charley Pride and Pam Tillis are lined up as presenters at the Universal Amphitheatre.


"Mystery!" / 9 p.m. KCET

Helen Baxendale, Ross' beguiling British fiance on "Friends," plays an inexperienced sleuth in an adaptation of the P.D. James whodunit "An Unsuitable Job for a Woman." Cordelia Gray (Baxendale) is a trainee who suddenly becomes the owner of a private detective agency. In her first case, the young heroine investigates the suicide of a student who dropped out of Cambridge. Annette Crosbie co-stars as Cordelia's office assistant.


"Dallas: The War of the Ewings" / 9 p.m. CBS

Some things never change at Southfork. In this new TV movie based on the seminal soap, everyone is at odds with that scoundrel J.R. (Larry Hagman), including Bobby (Patrick Duffy), Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), bitter rival Carter McKay (George Kennedy) and down-on-his-luck Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly). Meanwhile, an obvious assailant is trying to knock off the wily Texan, who is going all-out to reclaim Ewing Oil from his brother and ex-wife. Alas, most of the familiar machinations aren't as fun as they used to be.

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