TV Picks: 'Normal Heart,' 'Hannibal,' 'World Wars'

This week's TV picks from @marymactv: 'Normal Heart,' 'Hannibal,' and 'World Wars'

"The Normal Heart." After years of languishing in development purgatory, Larry Kramer's furious and essential play about the early years of the AIDS crisis in New York has been turned into a film. Adapted by Kramer and directed by Ryan Murphy with a  remarkable cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts, Alfred Molina and Jim Parsons, "The Normal Heart"  is a moment of grace and wonder, proof of human bravery amid horror and a story's ability to transcend and strengthen its own original purpose.
    Deftly retailored for a new time and medium without losing any of its original passion or pointedness, this "Heart" forces viewers to remember a time not so very long ago when the world seemed willing to let thousands of men die rather than reexamine its own prejudice.  Much has changed since then, though not nearly enough. But where the original sought furiously to make the personal political, this "Normal Heart" steps back to make room for characters, brought to life with universally vivid performances, to develop along with the message.
    The political comes full circle and is personal once again. Don't miss it. HBO, Sunday, 9 p.m.

"Hannibal." Season 2 of the violent, fey and occasionally poetic series that is loosely based on Thomas Harris' famous killer character opened with a violent encounter between Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelsen) and FBI agent Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne). As Season 1 had ended with Hannibal having framed Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) for a string of gruesome murders, this opener indicated that the worm had finally turn.

And  what  turning it has been. First, Will had to convince Jack and other members of the FBI that Hannibal, not he, was the killer, then he and Jack laid a perilous trap for their prey. Many episodes were spent with Will appearing to have fallen under Hannibal's spell, which, indeed, he may have. The finale should reveal whether the fight we saw so many months ago was simply an attempt to get Hannibal in custody or a larger battle for Will's soul. NBC, Fridays, 10 p.m.

"The World Wars." Although hampered by a relentless and unnecessary soundtrack and pocked by far too many overstaged scenes of historic reenactment, this six-hour, three-part series examining how the second world war inevitably emerged from the first is compelling, nonetheless.

Following the careers of key players, including Adolph Hitler, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Benito Mussolini as they emerge from the trenches to a world undone, "The World Wars" makes a compelling case for these two wars actually being one prolonged conflict.

Dotted with smaller facts -- viewers quickly learn the origin's of Hitler's famous mustache -- and knitted together with observations from historians and world leaders, including Colin Powell, Leon Panetta and former Prime Minister Tony Blair, it is perfect Memorial Day viewing, a reminding to us all that history can turn on small moments, and tragedy doesn't always strike, per se. Sometimes, it simply festers. History, May 26-28, 9 p.m.

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