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NOVA: MARS, DEAD OR ALIVE? 5 p.m. Saturday, July 16 AETN (Comcast Ch. 3, Broadcast Ch. 2) What with Steven Spielberg resurrecting the monstrous mechanized minions of Mars for his summer blockbuster “War of the Worlds,” it might be a good time to look a little closer at our crimson neighbor. Thinkers have long thunk about possible life on the red planet, and now — with more and more evidence of liquid water on or just below the rocky surface — it looks like simple life could exist there. While not the lofty cities and winding canals once envisioned by such science fiction writers as H.G Wells, our nearest neighbor might just hold the clues to how life began on our own little chunk of rock. Here, Nova follows the development and January 2004 launch of Spirit, the most advanced NASA rover ever to visit Mars. THE 4400 8 p.m. Sunday, July 17 USA (Comcast Ch. 26) So, there you are, minding your own business, when a bunch of space-going zookeepers swoop down and abduct you. As if that weren’t jarring enough, after all their rectal probing and needle-in-the-eyeball experiments, they drop you and 4,400 fellow abductees off in the middle of nowhere, each endowed with a special, hidden power for their trouble. Oh yeah: Though 50 years has passed, none of you has aged a day. That’s the scenario laid out by USA’s “The 4400.” Based on their successful miniseries, the new series is a blast, with shadowy agents tugging on the returned abductees from one side and a cultish support group tugging from the other. THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963) 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 19 AMC (Comcast Ch. 31) It’s human nature to try to find a way out of a cage when penned up. And the annals of World War II history are full of perilous and hair-raising escape attempts by prisoners of war, some brilliantly conceived works of stealth and engineering. Among the most well known is the escape that was eventually made into the hit film “The Great Escape.” With Steve McQueen headlining an all-star cast — including James Garner and James Coburn — it’s a true tale of daring-do in which Allied prisoners schemed to escape en masse from their German captors in order to disrupt the Axis war effort. Tune in and watch McQueen kick some Nazi butt.

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