Television's ability to explore and educate is on display tonight in a pair of PBS documentary series -- but so is its ability to take talented performers and reduce them to mushy misfits.
* "The 1995 Essence Awards" (8 p.m.-10 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- Sinbad and Natalie Cole preside over the annual show that honors outstanding African-Americans. Among the recipients this year: Janet Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Gen. Colin Powell. Local note: Jada Pinkett, a graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts, is among the scheduled performers. Fox.
* "Something Wilder" (8:30 p.m.-9 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- Was there a more precious presentation of parenthood than this sitcom, which premiered last fall, disappeared in relatively short order and now is back to run out its string of reruns? Its failure demonstrates that movie stars don't always make an easy transition to television. The talented Gene Wilder plays a late-in-life father whose 4-year-old twins change his life. Tonight's repeat is typically simpering and stupid, as Gene mistakes a roofer for a child psychologist. NBC.
* "Frontline: Currents of Fear" (9 p.m.-10 p.m., MPT, Channels 22, 67) -- Have you ever hiked under an overhead power line and heard the crackle of electricity coursing through the wires? The documentary show travels to Omaha to examine contentions that prolonged proximity to such power fields causes cancer. PBS.
* "P.O.V." (10 p.m.-11 p.m., MPT, Channels 22, 67) -- The land of Tibet in the shadow of the Himalayas is hardly a romantic Shangri-La in real-life, as one of the two independent films screened tonight demonstrates. "Satya: A Prayer for the Enemy" portrays Buddhist nuns who have led a nonviolent resistance to their county's occupation by Chinese forces. PBS.
* "Wyatt Earp" (8 p.m.-11:15 p.m., HBO) and "Tombstone" (8 p.m.-10:10 p.m., Showtime) -- So what really happened at the O.K. Corral? Coincidental screenings of the two most recent films to deal with the legend offer contrasting versions of the events and the characters. The former is Kevin Costner's lengthy character study, and the latter stars Kurt Russell (as Earp) and Val Kilmer (as Doc Holliday).
* "Ben Johnson's Pro-Celebrity Rodeo" (8 p.m.-9:30 p.m., The Nashville Network) -- From fictional cowboys to the real, roping kind! The actor best known for his Western roles ("Wagonmaster," "The Wild Bunch") presents a benefit rodeo in which country stars try their spurs -- including Linda Davis, Skip Ewing, Lynn Anderson and cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell.