What’s Worth Watching: The Jewish Alamo

Siege of Masada
Courtesy of Smithsonian Channel
Siege of Masada

Siege of Masada (Friday, March 27, 9/8c, Smithsonian Channel)

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, CBS revives the long-neglected format of the classic historical network-TV miniseries with a deluxe adaptation of Alice Hoffman’s acclaimed novel The Dovekeepers, taking a female-centric perspective on the epic standoff between exiled Jews in a remote mountain fortress and Romans seeking to conquer and enslave them in 73 CE. Starring NCIS‘s Cote de Pablo, the miniseries (produced by The Bible‘s Mark Burnett and Roma Downey) was filmed in Malta in the Mediterranean, subbing for the Middle East. But what’s the real story?

Smithsonian provides a curtain raiser for the fictionalized drama with this hour-long special that travels to the ancient archeological site, revealing evidence that supports the historical account by Jewish scholar Josephus. Behind-the-scenes footage from The Dovekeepers‘ Malta shoot, and excerpts from the show, often make this seem like an extended trailer, but the professors interviewed against ancient Masada’s soaring backdrop make a convincing case for the battle’s reputation as “the Alamo of the ancient world.”