What's Worth Watching: Hitchcock/Truffaut, Stand By Me, UnReal and more for Monday, August 8.
Hitchcock/Truffaut (9/8c, HBO): For great French filmmaker/critic Francois Truffaut, celebrating Alfred Hitchcock as a "master of suspense" wasn't enough. Like many of his generation in the 1960s, he considered the director an underappreciated artist who wrote his masterpieces with the camera as his tool, a daringly visual maestro too easily dismissed as a light entertainer with a flair for shock. Truffaut's weeklong series of interviews with Hitchcock in 1962 was published in book form in 1966, an influential tome for critics (such as myself) and fellow auteurs, including Martin Scorsese, David Fincher and Wes Anderson—all interviewed for an absorbing documentary that includes rarely heard audio excerpts from their master class in moviemaking. Hitchcockian quips ("I'm never satisfied with the ordinary") are illuminated by clips and impassioned dissections of iconic sequences from films including Vertigo and the revolutionary Psycho‑an example of "pure film" of which Hitchcock exults, "Our art achieved something of mass emotion." Did it ever.
Stand By Me (8/7c, HDNET Movies): In a nod to more recent classic cinema, Rob Reiner's first-class adaptation of Stephen King's "The Body" is revived, 30 years to the date of its release, with back-to-back screenings. (An encore follows at 9:35/8:35c.) If you binge-watched Netflix's Stranger Things this summer, no doubt you felt the vibe of this fable of adolescent friendship, starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell and Corey Feldman.
UnReal (10/9c, Lifetime): The controversial and uneven second season of this outrageously twisted soap-within-a-reality-show comes to a close with producer-from-hell Quinn (Emmy-nominated Constance Zimmer) still trying to manipulate the last two Everlasting contestants. But the real turmoil is happening, as usual, behind the scenes, as Rachel (Shiri Appleby) does her best to stop Coleman (Michael Rady) from exposing the show's darkest secrets. Actually, wiping the slate clean could be the best thing for UnReal and Everlasting. We'll see.
Inside Monday TV: Among the scheduled events in NBC's prime-time Olympics coverage (8/7c): men's gymnastic team finals, diving, swimming and beach volleyball. . . . With the political conventions in the rear-view mirror, PBS spends the next two weeks taking a deep dive into past presidencies, with six encores from American Experience's renowned series The Presidents. First up, airing Monday and Tuesday (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org), is a compelling biographical portrait of JFK. … Smithsonian Channel goes Behind the Lost Empires in a new five-part series, employing new technology to mine long-buried discoveries about ancient civilizations. In the premiere, Pompeii: The Dead Speak (8/7c), forensic scientists use their newfangled tools to learn more about life and the citizens in the Roman town destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.