TV Picks: ‘The Roosevelts,’ ‘Red Band Society’ and more

‘Red Band Society’
Griffin Gluck, left, and Octavia Spencer in “Red Band Society.”
(Annette Brown / Fox)

“The Roosevelts: An Intimate History."  This seven-part, 14-hour chronicle of a family that helped shape not only American history but American identity is a stunning reminder of why Ken Burns, having revolutionized the documentary series, continues to be the best in the business.

Though focusing on the most famous members of the Roosevelt family -- Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor -- Burns and his team carefully construct a vivid context for their remarkable story. Both presidents were plagued by illness -- Teddy almost died during childhood and was a chronic asthmatic, Franklin was stricken with polio as a young man -- all three suffered loss and emerged from dysfunctionally high-status families with a determination to change the world.




In an earlier version of this post, “Honorable” was misspelled as “Honourable” for the show  “The Honorable Woman.”


Which they absolutely did. Assembling his inevitably high-wattage team, Burns explains how and why. George Will heads a slew of insightful, articulate historians, Peter Coyote narrates, and host of A-listers lend their voices: Paul Giamatti to Teddy, Ed Herrman to Franklin (whom he played in the memorable “Franklin and Eleanor”) and Meryl Streep to Eleanor.  PBS, Sundays, 8 p.m.

“The Red Band Society.” This new dramedy set in a pediatric hospital no doubt owes its existence to the return of fatal illness to the YA scene, where the children of those who sobbed their way through “Brian’s Song,” “Something for Joey” and “Sunshine” are now addicted to the works of John Green.


But the story, which derives from the successful Spanish series “Polsere Vermelles” created by cancer survivor Albert Espinosa, is adapted by creator Margaret Nagle’s childhood experience of seeing her  young brother going into a coma after a car accident.

There’s also a surprisingly high “MASH” factor. The young patients here find many ways to fight the system and distract themselves from the reason of its existence (weed replacing Hawkeye’s still). How it will sustain itself remains to be seen, but as anyone who has spent any time on a pediatric wing knows, it is indeed a world unto itself.  Fox, Wednesdays, 9 p.m.

“The Mindy Project” There’s been a lot of love-hate-love out there for Mindy Kaling’s single-gal series, which has evolved into a solid and very funny ensemble comedy. One hopes it can somehow survive the famously fatal blow of turning its two best sparring partners into a couple.

As of this week’s season premiere, Mindy (Kaling) and Danny (Chris Messina) are officially a couple, so will the show be moving from “Mary Tyler Moore” to “Mad About You” territory? And will any of the doctors and nurses who populate this universe ever deliver an actual baby? Season 3 awaits with the answers. Fox, Tuesdays,  9:30 p.m.

“The Honorable Woman.” This artful and hypnotic character study set against the ongoing conflict in the Middle East concludes this week. And no, I won’t stop talking about this show,  or the performances of its stars (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Stephen Rea, Janet McTeer, Andrew Buchan) because it and they are simply amazing. Sundance, Thursday, 10 p.m.

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