Documentary shows horrors of N. Korea

What's the weirdest and most frightening place on earth? The one-hour documentary "Welcome to North Korea" (6:30 p.m., Cinemax) offers a chilling travelogue about a communist regime caught in a totalitarian twilight zone. Dutch filmmaker Peter Tetteroo and his crew are housed and monitored in a giant 45-floor hotel that seems to have no other guests. Much of Pyongyang appears to be a glittering host city for visitors who never come. The streets are empty, except when thousands of school children arrive to sing praises to the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and his legendary father, Kim Il Sung.

The propaganda about the Kim dynasty knows no limits. Nature itself bends to the decrees of North Korean Communism. When the elder dictator died, the populace was told that a flock of cranes arrived to transport his body to its marble mausoleum. Thousands of sparrows were also said to have bowed their little heads in sorrow.

"Welcome" also includes scenes, shot secretly by Chinese camera crews, of starvation and mass burials in the North Korean countryside. Completed before the recent nuclear crisis, "Welcome" chronicles efforts by South Korean industrialists, including the founder of Hyundai corporation, to reconcile with their estranged and paranoid neighbors.

  • Last year's winner, Kelly Clarkson, returns to perform on a two-hour edition of "American Idol" (7 p.m., Fox). The remaining 11 contestants will compete by singing themes from popular movies.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Nick's criminal past resurfaces when Burton defends the cop who shot his son's former drug connection on "The Guardian" (8 p.m., CBS). This episode marks the directorial debut of series star Simon Baker.
  • Scheduled on "Dateline" (9 p.m., NBC): How terrorists can obtain shoulder-fired missiles capable of shooting down airliners.

Series notes

Immigrant smuggling on "JAG" (7 p.m., CBS) ... Doors and curtains on "Let's Make a Deal" (7 p.m., NBC).

Fish eggs most foul on "Frasier" (8 p.m., NBC) ... Bonnie suspects that Gloria may be stealing on "Life with Bonnie" (8 p.m., ABC).

A case brings Adam and Susan closer together on "A.U.S.A" (8:30 p.m., NBC) ... Network intrigue on "Less Than Perfect" (8:30 p.m., ABC) ... The feud takes to the high seas on "The Family" (9 p.m., ABC).

Late night

Kiefer Sutherland and The Music appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno hosts Dana Carvey and the Goo Goo Dolls on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).


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