What's on TV: shows worth noting for Dec. 8 - 14
The following are not necessarily recommended by the Monitor. All times Eastern, check local listings.
SuperCroc (National Geographic Channel, 8-10 p.m.): Truly one of the most fascinating stories of ancient creatures is this one about a croc that lived 110 million years ago ("It didn't walk with dinosaurs ... it ate them"). Wonderful storytelling, terrific effects, and the croc himself - all 40 feet of him - make this a fine nature documentary.
The Day Reagan Was Shot (Showtime, 9-10:40 p.m.): Richard Crenna stars as President Reagan and Richard Dreyfuss as Secretary of State Alexander Haig in this riveting movie. Most of us don't know what went on behind the scenes on that dreadful day in 1981 when a disturbed John Hinckley shot the leader of the free world. And although there are more than enough grim medical details, this story really focuses on cabinet members and their power plays. No one comes off very well, except Mr. Reagan and his wife, Nancy. But Dreyfuss turns in an enthralling performance not to be missed. Contains gory details and harsh language.
Taking Back Our Town (Lifetime, 9-11 p.m.): Ruby Dee stars as an aging activist who helps organize the mothers of a small town, black and white, to prevent a Japanese chemical company from locating in their already-polluted backyard. Based on a true story, it demonstrates that the little guy (or gal) can fight city hall if she has the grit. The film is nicely acted and (thank goodness) has a predictable ending. Family viewing.
The Art of the Violin (PBS, check local listings): Great Performances offers an involving documentary on some of the 20th century's greatest performers, with commentary by Itzhak Perlman and other fine contemporary violinists who explain what made men like Kreisler, Heifetz, and Menuhin so outstanding. Anyone who loves classical music will come away from this film with a greater understanding of what it takes to make beautiful music.
Lady Bird (PBS, check local listings): When President Kennedy was assassinated, Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson took over a tempest-swept White House. This is the first lady's story, including rare interviews with her daughters, presidential aides, and historians.