The American Future:
A History by Simon Schama
America may finally be confronting its own limitations, posits author and art historian Simon Schama in this sober four-part documentary. Part 1 takes him West, where nine years of drought offer a metaphor for vanishing prosperity and diminishing possibility. In Part 2, he finds deeply divided attitudes in San Antonio about the Iraq war. In Part 3, he looks at the tumultuous relationship between faith and politics, and in Part 4 he examines the volatile issue of immigration. Monday­–Tuesday, Jan. 19–20, at 8 p.m., BBC America

NOVA: The Big Energy Gamble
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 levels—but can he do it without wrecking his state’s precarious economy? To see if Schwarzenegger’s gamble is paying off, NOVA travels from San Francisco’s Luscious Garage, which crafts custom hybrid cars, to the wind turbines of the Tehachapi Valley. Interviewees includes eco-activist Ed Begley Jr. and Bill Nye, the “Science Guy.” Tuesday, Jan. 20, at 8 p.m., PBS; check local listings

Frontline: Dreams of Obama
In a new profile of the incoming president, Frontline talks to people who have observed Barack Obama’s remarkable rise: from his Harvard Law School days to his career in Chicago politics, and through the hard-fought campaign that began at the 2004 Democratic Convention and will culminate with his inauguration this week. Tuesday, Jan. 20, at 9 p.m., PBS; check local listings

Battlestar Galactica
The bad news: There are only nine episodes left in this Peabody Award–winning sci-fi series’ fourth and final season (referred to by fans as “Season 4.5” because the original 22 episodes were interrupted by last year’s writers’ strike). The good news: The show remains as thoughtful, absorbing, and well-acted as ever—and a TV movie, The Plan, as well as a prequel series, Caprica, are on tap after it ends. Friday, Jan. 23, at 9 p.m., Sci Fi

On Board Air Force One
Cameras provide a rare look inside the famed aircraft, including the president’s bedroom and the communications bar. Other highlights include President Bush’s recollections of being aboard the plane on Sept. 11, 2001, and a scheduled look at his final flight, back to Texas, as he leaves office. Sunday, Jan. 25, at 8 p.m., National Geographic Channel

Other highlights

In the two-hour season premiere, rescued castaways try to return to the island for those left behind. Wednesday, Jan. 21, at 9 p.m., ABC

Dan Cruickshank’s
Adventures in Architecture
The historian and writer explores architectural ideas around the world in this weeklong series. Sunday–Friday, Jan. 25–30, at 9 p.m., and Saturday, Jan. 31, at 8 p.m., Ovation