TV Picks: 'North America,' 'Ghost Army,' 'Mad Men,' Mel Brooks

May 16, 2013 11:09 PM

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TV Picks: 'North America,' 'Ghost Army,' 'Mad Men,' Mel Brooks

"North America" (Discovery Channel, Sunday). The latest blockbuster nature documentary to justify your purchase of an HDTV (see also "Planet Earth," "Life," "Frozen Planet," "Africa") is the seven-part "North America." There are some hectoring musical passages and the narration, delivered by Tom Selleck, foregrounding the folksy creak in his voice, can run to the precious and dramatically over-personified: Why does the continent need to be "she," or the yearning-to-breathe-free behavior of wild animals be taken to somehow express "the American heart"? But you can turn down the sound to eliminate that human element and feel all the power and mystery of the wilderness without distraction. (You'll still know what's happening most of the time.) The real honor the series does the natural world is to pay it witness, and this it is does exceedingly well: It is gorgeous clean through. The episode I've seen hops around the map, from gray whales in the Bering Sea to cute little colorful birds in the Costa Rican jungle; there are bears and sea turtles and mustangs. The usual caveat applies: Nature is beautiful but not always pretty.

"The Ghost Army" (PBS, Tuesday). Rick Beyer's fascinating, detailed and oddly delightful account of the World War II military camouflage artists whose job was not to hide men and materiel but to create battalions where none actually existed, drawing German eyes and ears to the wrong place. Working w...

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