July 21, 2003 12:00 PM

PBS (check local listings)

In the ’70s, public TV aired an acclaimed drama titled The Six Wives of Henry VIII. This new treatment of the subject, also highly worthwhile, is a two-part, four-hour documentary that makes extensive use of dramatized scenes—most of them without dialogue—to supplement the vivid narration of British historian David Starkey.

Ordinarily I’d be dubious of such re-creations, but here they’re a plus because the acting quality is so good. Especially noteworthy are Annabelle Dowler as Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s dignified and determined first wife, and Julia Marsen as Anne Boleyn, who was sitting pretty till the king’s mood changed and she lost her head. Starkey can sound a bit too indignant about unseemly goings-on among long-ago royals, but he does make the 1500s come alive.–T.K. BOTTOM LINE: Regal storytelling

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