Without a doubt, one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies is "King Lear," which returns to TV tonight on PBS' "Great Performances."
Tonight's version is a film of the performance of Sir Ian McKellan in the title role. McKellan's version of the play has gotten rave reviews and will be shown in its entirety (minus a nude scene from McKellan, which PBS censors cut out).
It's not the first TV appearance for "Lear," however. Laurence Olivier received his final Emmy nomination for his version in 1984, with a cast that included Diana Rigg and John Hurt.
Orson Welles did a much earlier version for CBS in 1953. Ian Holm also received an Emmy nomination for his 1997 rendititon. James Earl Jones performed the title role in a version that was shown on PBS in 1974, with a cast that included Raul Julia, Rene Auberjoinois and Paul Sorvino. A few years ago on TNT, Patrick Stewart played the lead role in an updated production set on a Texas cattle ranch in the 1800s.
The current McKellan version also stars Frances Barber, Romola Garai, Monica Dolan, William Gaunt, Jonathan Hyde and Sylvester McCoy.
WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: If you are not into the heaviness of Shakespearian tragedy, there are still plenty of new options on the networks tonight.
"Lost" (ABC, 9 p.m.), of course, won't provide much cheeriness, but it will provide plenty of entertainment. It's followed by the penultimate "Life On Mars" at 10 p.m., and follows new episodes of "Scrubs" and "Better Off Ted."
After getting yanked last night because of the Obama press conference, "American Idol" (Fox, 8 p.m.) is two hours tonight.
"Survivor" (CBS, 8 p.m.) airs a new episode tonight because tomorrow night CBS is showing the next round of the NCAA basketball tournament. It's followed by new installments of "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY."
"Life" (NBC, 9 p.m.), which doesn't look good for renewal, is brand new and is followed by a new "Law & Order."
Finally, "Damages" (FX, 10 p.m.) winds down on its second season.