First, an apology. Because "Fail Safe" was presented "live" last Sunday, and because the ending was a closely kept secret, and because we never bothered to actually see the original movie on which it was based, we just had no idea. If this column was responsible in any way for your sitting through an hour and a half of nail-biting suspense, only to get to the part where the president of the United States decides that dropping an atomic bomb on New York City would be a good idea (as opposed to the goofiest plot point ever), we apologize. We would also like to apologize on behalf of the 1960s, a time when, apparently, this ending made sense.
-- The Discovery Channel presents three hours worth of some pretty rare footage of dinosaurs in their natural habitat. Actually, "Walking with Dinosaurs" (7 p.m. PDT, today) co-produced by the BBC, gets its spectacular images from a combination of exotic location shots and state-of-the-art "Jurassic Park"-style digital effects. What’s different and clever here is that the show is presented as a standard nature documentary. And as such, it features a lot of the day in a dino life events that kids will particularly enjoy (like dino pee and dino poop). It’s also maybe a full hour too long. If you’ve got kids, ask them to show you how to work your VCR so you can tape it for them.
-- And speaking of long - Heston’s back! And this time it’s personal! ABC keeps the annual holiday tradition going with the four-hour epic "The Ten Commandments" (7 p.m. PDT, today) starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner and, sadly, not William Shatner. But he would have been perfect in it. Somewhere along the line, probably because it is so beloved, this film started appearing in movie guides as rating four stars. The truth is, it ain’t "Citizen Kane." But there is definitely something about it. If you grew up with this movie, you’ll probably watch at least part of it again (this columnist checks in for at least the Edward G. Robinson scenes every year). If you’ve never seen it before, you might enjoy watching your kids watch this movie. Even if they can’t last through the whole thing, they would still probably love to try. Watch for a cameo appearance by God about three hours in.
-- For those out there with more sophisticated viewing tastes, "Masterpiece Theatre’s" presentation of "David Copperfield" (9 p.m. PDT, PBS, today and Monday) is a keeper. Maggie Smith and Ian McKellen continue their streak of being in every single British-produced film. And they, along with Bob Hoskins, are as engaging as ever, playing these astonishingly captivating characters. Nobody can break your heart while choking you with laughter like Charles Dickens, and this performance does his work justice.
-- "Trapped in a Purple Haze" (8 p.m. PDT, ABC, Monday) is a change of pace from the made-for-TV Monday night movies we’ve been getting. This one trades in the camp appeal of "Satan’s School for Girls" for a much grittier realism, as a teen athlete (Jonathan Jackson, "General Hospital") messes up his life in a hurry with a new girlfriend ("Popular’s" Carly Pope) and her best buddy, heroin. Don’t expect "A Tale of Two Bunnies." This one is unusually serious, and unusually well done.
-- Despite what NBC says you "must see," Fox offers up the show of the night Thursday with the surprising hit British movie "The Full Monty." This film starts off with a quaintly funny premise (unemployed and decidedly unbuff steelworkers form an all-male exotic dance troupe to make ends meet) and then goes on to turn into something pretty special. Great characters portrayed by the likes of Robert Carlyle and Mark Addy and great heart made this an unexpected theatrical hit in 1997.