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Sunday, November 4, 2001
Story of Warsaw Ghetto presented on 'Uprising'
Miniseries tells of Jewish resistance fighters who battled Nazis during WWII
A new NBC miniseries looks at the Holocaust from a different perspective: It tells of the Jewish resistance fighters who battled the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II - a part of history that has been neglected in the retelling of the horrific events.
"Uprising" (8 p.m. today and Monday on NBC) tells a devastating story, but what separates it from other accounts of the Holocaust is its focus on the resistance front that fought back.
After Germany invades Poland in 1939, the Nazis decree that 350,000 Warsaw Jews be moved to a condoned area known as the Warsaw Ghetto. Mordechai (Hank Azaria) is an idealistic teacher who quickly tires of seeing his people mistreated and organizes a rebellion.
The head of the ghetto's Jewish Council (Donald Sutherland) won't support Mordechai's cause because he thinks that the Germans will stomp them at the first sign of an uprising. But Mordechai finds plenty of support from his friend Yitzhak Zuckerman (David Schwimmer) and others who help him form the Jewish Fighting Organization.
When the Germans start to deport Jews to the Treblinka death camp, the JFO fights back with weapons that were smuggled across the border by covert couriers such as Tosia (Leelee Sobieski) who are able to pass as Aryan. Even though the JFO army of 200 trained fighters is dwarfed by the Germans' tanks and artillery, they're still able to resist the Nazis' genocidal attempts.
The story within the film is gripping and strangely unfamiliar. Even writer/director/producer Jon Avnet hadn't ever heard about the events within the ghetto until someone approached him to do the film.
"I felt my education, which I thought was pretty good, was flawed because I didn't know about it," said Avnet, promoting the film at the summer press tour in Los Angeles in July. "And I think a lot of people don't know about it. ... It's criminal that it hasn't been dealt with before (in film). And perhaps with time passage, you know, now is the appropriate time."
Schwimmer, best known as Ross on "Friends," didn't agree that there is a precise time for particular issues to be tackled in entertainment.
"There's not a now in terms of when this story should be told," Schwimmer said. "There should be a story about the Holocaust told every year if not every month. I think there's a wealth of information and so many stories about the Holocaust. This is just one story of resistance."
Added Avnet: "Have you ever seen that story? Have you ever seen a Jew pick up a gun and kill a German during the Holocaust? When you do, it will make you feel something very unique, and I think that's why we're here."
The material is rich, but the film sometimes drags. At four hours, the miniseries isn't able to maintain a consistency - particularly enough to draw viewers back for another night. But the leading core of actors - including Azaria, Sobieski and Jon Voight (who plays a Nazi General) - turn in surprisingly powerful performances.
Other highlights include:
2 p.m. on NBC: New York City Marathon Always a spectacular event, this year's run takes on added significance as part of the city's effort to recover from the Sept. 11 attacks and to honor the victims and rescue workers.
7 p.m. on CBS: The Emmy Awards This is the second attempt to hold a scaled-down version of the ceremony that was postponed because of the Sept. 11 attacks. Not everyone agreed that this particular show must go on, and the controversy may be reflected in the remarks of some of the winners.
7 p.m. on Showtime: The Wilde Girls A mother who had bad experiences in show business tries to discourage her daughter's musical ambitions. This new made-for-cable family movie stars Olivia Newton-John and Chloe Rose (mother and daughter in real life, too), and Swoosie Kurtz.
6:30 p.m. on Fox Family: The Wonder Years When it aired originally (1988-93), "The Wonder Years" was looking back on the turbulent '60s from a vantage point of approximately 20 years later. Now that another decade has passed, will the series still appeal to the generation that saw itself in Kevin (Fred Savage) and Winnie (Danica McKellar)? Reruns of 115 episodes will be shown weeknights at 7:30, 10 and 10:30 p.m.
8 p.m. on ABC: NYPD Blue Always among the last shows to start its new season, "NYPD Blue" returns on its usual night after a fair amount of controversy over a proposed move to Wednesdays. Mark-Paul Gosselaar joins the cast as Dennis Franz's new partner.
8 p.m. on Fox: 24 One of the most praised of the new series, this one debuts late because the Fox network was busy with baseball. Each episode of the action-adventure show will cover one hour of the same day as it plays out in "real time." Kiefer Sutherland stars.
7 p.m. on CBS: CMA Awards This is the 35th annual ceremony, and while it may seem that Vince Gill has always been the host, this will be only his 10th consecutive appearance. Among the top country artists scheduled to perform during the live broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville are the Dixie Chicks, Martina McBride, Willie Nelson and George Strait.
7:30 p.m. on Fox: The Tick Another new Fox series that had to wait for the World Series to end, this one is a live-action version of the spoofy adventures of the unlikely superhero, played by Patrick Warburton. Tonight's plot involves a threat to a former president. With Liz Vassey as Captain Liberty.
8 p.m. on PBS: Frontline Tonight's show reports on the common belief that Iraq's Saddam Hussein has been behind many acts of terrorism, and on the debate in Washington over how the United States should respond.
7:30 p.m. on NBC: Shakespeare in Love A big winner at the Oscars, this 1998 movie imagines what may have inspired the writing of "Romeo and Juliet." Among other things, the film raised the celebrity profile of Gwyneth Paltrow, the best-actress winner. Judi Dench won as best supporting actress.
Pop culture and media critic Ricardo Baca can be reached at 886-3688
or by e-mail at email@example.com
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