A Story of Epic Proportions

"Rome," a sweeping 12-episode drama, begins Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO. The ancient city's familiar historical events unfold around a pair of working class soldiers of Caesar's army who are unwittingly caught up in the turbulence of the era.

Set against the backdrop of Rome's political climate, the series opens in 52 B.C., with Julius Caesar (Ciaran Hinds) triumphant after eight years of war. After his conquest of Gaul, Caesar was ready to return to Rome, then the world's wealthiest city.

Bruno Heller wrote and Michael Apted directed the first three installments, starring a largely British cast.

The program, seven years in the making, was filmed at Rome's Cinecitta Studios, on six soundstages and five acres of back lot, the largest standing set in the world.

The series contains graphic violence and sexually explicit scenes.

LITTLE LEAGUE World championship

Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on ABC

It's the sporting event that put Williamsport, Pa., on the map. The Little League Baseball final airs today, after 16 teams of American and international competitors batted, fielded and ran to glory. The game airs live from Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

THE MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS

Sunday at 8 p.m. on MTV

Hosted by Diddy (or whatever his name is this week) and airing live from Miami, the annual show marks its 22nd year of honoring the best in music and music videos. Performers scheduled to appear include Kelly Clarkson, Ludacris and Mariah Carey.

Nominees for video of the year include Coldplay, Green Day, Gwen Stefani and Kanye West.

BEYOND THE MOON:

FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION 2

Sunday at 9 p.m. on History

Gene Kranz, a NASA Mission Control veteran, tells the tale of the space agency's roller coaster ride in the post-Apollo era.

The documentary includes reaction by space veterans to the cancellation of all space missions during the Vietnam War, the daring repair to Skylab and the creation of the first reusable space vehicle, called the shuttle.

The program, a sequel to an earlier documentary, also spotlights the changing face of NASA and its hopes for manned space flight.

THE 4400

Sunday at 9 p.m.

on USA

The show about the reappearance of 4,400 formerly missing people wraps up its second season with plot lines still weaving a tangled and tantalizing trail.

The season finale, titled "Mommy's Bosses," stars Laura Allen, Joel Gretsch, Jacqueline McKenzie and Billy Campbell.

STROKER & HOOP

Sunday at midnight on Cartoon Network

This animated series follows the misadventures of John Stroker, a private eye still mastering the art of lock-picking, car hood-sliding and keeping his gun from falling out of his waistband when he bends over at the grocery store. Nevertheless, he's willing to help anyone who responds to his tiny ad in the phone book.

the view

Weekdays at 11 a.m. on ABC

They're back for their ninth season, those five outspoken women, complete with the daily dish that viewers have come to expect.

Spanning generational leaps and gaps, Barbara Walters, Meredith Vieira, Star Jones Reynolds, Joy Behar and Elizabeth Hasselbeck are poised to discuss events of the world, whether news or entertainment, and the lives they lead off-camera.

LEGENDS OF JAZZ:

THE JAZZ MASTERS

Wednesday at 10 p.m.

on WETA, 11 p.m. on MPT

Smooth and cool as a summer evening, the sounds of jazz serve as an undercurrent for this combination of live performances, conversations and archival material.

The show spotlights Nancy Wilson, James Moody, Jon Hendricks, Paquito D'Rivera and Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein, all recipients of the NEA Jazz Masters Award. Ramsey Lewis hosts.

CHILDREN OF BESLAN:

THE RUSSIAN SCHOOL SIEGE

Thursday at 8 p.m. on HBO

On Sept. 1, 2004, a group of heavily armed rebel extremists stormed School No. 1 in Beslan, Russia, and held hostage more than 1,000 children and adults in a sweltering gymnasium for three days, denying them water.

The siege ended 57 hours later in a series of explosions and gunfire that killed 331 people, more than half of them children, and surpassed the death toll at a 2002 tragedy in a Moscow theater.

This documentary includes footage taken by the extremists and interviews with more than a dozen of the children, ages 6 to 12, some of whom are now orphans.

Traditionally, Sept. 1 has been called "The Day of Knowledge" and has been a joyous annual event heralding the beginning of a new school year. Most of the children of Beslan now study at another school.