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TV highlights, Sept. 21 

CANNIBALISM: EXTREME SURVIVAL
9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22
The History Channel (Comcast Ch. 70)

The question is: How badly do you want to survive? Throughout history, when people have been faced with this question in a situation where they might starve, some have answered it with one of the biggest taboos in human society: cannibalism. Far from a new thing — researchers have found the bones of children with characteristic gnaw marks in England’s Neolithic Era cave dwellings — the eating of human flesh has attained a damning reputation. Here, researchers and scientists search the roots of cannibalism and the prohibition surrounding it. Along the way, they discuss such infamous cases as the 1847 Donner Party incident, and the 1972 crash of an Uruguayan rugby team’s plane in the Andes, which led to cannibalism and a feature film, “Alive.”


CUBA: WILD ISLAND OF THE CARIBBEAN
7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24
AETN (Comcast Ch. 3, Broadcast Ch. 2)


One important side-effect of the American/Cuban rift has been that while other Caribbean islands have seen their ecology mangled by armies of sun-seeking tourists over the years, Cuba has been relatively spared. The result is a dazzling array of flora, fauna and unspoiled ecosystems. In an unprecedented cooperation with the Cuban government, the PBS show “Nature” goes in search of some of the island’s rarest species, including a giant woodpecker related to the famed ivory bill, and the Cuban crocodile, which can jump seven feet.

MARIE ANTOINETTE
9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 25
AETN (Comcast Ch. 3, Broadcast Ch. 2)

Though Marie Antoinette will probably always be known as the spoiled, selfish aristocrat who famously told her starving subjects to “eat cake” (the quote was misattributed to her, by the way), the real life Marie Antoinette was a much more multifaceted figure than she’s given credit for, with a much more tragic story. An Austrian archduchess, Marie was married off to the French crown price (who would later become Louis XIV) at age 14 as a way of bringing peace to Europe. Forced to leave all her family and friends behind as a symbolic gesture, married to a man who proved to be impotent, her letters show Marie to have been lonely, depressed and homesick most of the time. Swept up in the French Revolution, Marie eventually lost her head on the guillotine. In this two-hour special, historians and scholars go in search of the real Marie Antoinette through her correspondence and contemporary accounts of her life.

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