For weeks now, I've been piling up screeners of programming to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, fielding calls and emails from earnest PR people who want to tell me (and you) why their particular program is the one that stands out from the ever-growing crowd.
I promised myself that sooner or later I'd take a look.
But I really didn't want to. And not just because this is the busy season for any TV critic.
Like most people, I spent much of Sept. 11, 2001, staring at my TV set, watching what had started out as a spectacularly beautiful day going straight to hell. I hope not to do that this Sunday. Or ever again.
If you choose to commemorate one of the worst days in our collective memory by watching news retrospectives and documentaries about those events, there are, I promise you, plenty available this weekend. I've chosen to focus on just two, one a documentary, the other a work of fiction. Both grew out of what happened on 9/11, but they don't require the backdrop of this sad anniversary to be appreciated:
"The Love We Make." 9 p.m. Saturday, Showtime. Albert Maysles ("Grey Gardens"), the filmmaker, who along with his late brother, David, chronicled the Beatles' first visit to America in 1964, picks up a 16mm black-and-white camera once again to follow Paul McCartney around New York in the days and weeks after 9/11. As the ex-Beatle works to pull together the benefit Concert for New York City, spending time with Bill Clinton and Billy Joel, Dan Rather and Howard Stern, Maysles not only captures a moment in time but gives us a look at what it's like, day to day, to be Paul McCartney. Undeniably odd at times, it's also oddly affecting.
"The Space Between." 9 p.m. Sunday, USA. Oscar winner Melissa Leo ("The Fighter," "Treme") stars in this indie film as a surly flight attendant who, when the planes are grounded on Sept. 11, finds herself in charge of a 10-year-old Pakistani boy named Omar (Anthony Keyvan), who demands that she bring him back to New York, where his taxi driver father works a second job at the World Trade Center. That's not the only heart-wrenching coincidence in a story that already has more baggage than could fit in the overhead compartment, but Leo and her young co-star are splendid and performances like theirs would be worth watching on any night of the year.