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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Engineering an Empire’ fits ‘Rome’

Kevin McDonough United Feature Syndicate

Bricks and mortar make an interesting mix with intrigue and cruelty in the special “Rome: Engineering an Empire” (9 p.m., History).

Rome was not the first, or last, military force to employ superior technology to intimidate an enemy with “shock and awe.” A decade before Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he had his engineers build a bridge over the troubled waters of the Rhine, separating Roman Gaul from hostile Germanic tribes.

“Engineering an Empire” uses special effects to demonstrate how Caesar’s men used sophisticated pilings to erect a bridge more than 1,000 feet long and strong enough to support tens of thousands of Roman soldiers. Caesar estimated that there were hundreds of thousands of Germans on the other side. But he guessed correctly that the mere sight of the bridge and his advancing troops would make the Germans scatter.

What “Engineering” cannot convey is the mind-boggling fact that Caesar’s men built the bridge in only 10 days.

Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, the Romans built a series of roads connecting cities throughout Italy and beyond. A series of aqueducts brought fresh water to the capital as well as to provincial cities.

In fact, it took until 1985 for New York City to secure a bigger water-supply system than ancient Rome’s.

A stimulating and visually dazzling special, “Engineering an Empire” is a perfect companion to the HBO series “Rome.”

“Precinct Hollywood” (10 p.m., AMC) offers a provocative roundup of the police movies of the past three decades. The special theorizes that the modern cop hero did not emerge until the early 1970s, when Harry Callaghan (“Dirty Harry”) and “Popeye” Doyle (“The French Connection”) began to express audiences’ frustrations with civil unrest and rampant crime.

“Precinct” follows the genre’s devolution into the cop comedies of the 1980s (“Beverly Hills Cop”) and the return of the gritty drama (“Training Day”) in more recent years.

“Precinct” discusses how cop movies influenced modern TV cops but ignores the influence of TV cops (from “Dragnet” to “Homicide”) on big-screen dramas. This seems odd, particularly since some of the talent featured here, most notably Clint Eastwood (“Dirty Harry”) and Sidney Lumet (“Serpico”), began their careers in television.

Other highlights

Florida State hosts Miami in college football action (5 p.m., ABC).

Pat harbors a big secret on “Everybody Loves Raymond” (8:30 p.m., CBS).

Deadline pressures begin to weigh on Michael on “Prison Break” (9 p.m., Fox).

“History Detectives” (9 p.m., KSPS) encourages young sleuths to sift evidence.

A teen (Kristen Stewart) painfully recovers from date rape in the 2005 TV drama “Speak” (9 p.m., Lifetime and Showtime), broadcast on two networks simultaneously.

“The Closer” (9 p.m., TNT), starring Kyra Sedgewick, ends its first season with an extended 70-minute finale.

Murder checks into a posh hotel on “CSI: Miami” (10 p.m., CBS).

A psychic mother (Patricia Arquette) offers her help to the police in the pilot episode of “Medium” (10 p.m., NBC).

Cult choice

A cop sends the wrong man to the chair in the 1968 police drama “The Detective” (5 p.m., Fox Movie Channel), starring Frank Sinatra, Lee Remick and Jacqueline Bisset.

Series notes

A ballgame mortification on “King of Queens” (8 p.m., CBS) … Joe Rogan hosts “Fear Factor” (8 p.m., NBC) … A neighborly intervention on “Nanny 911” (8 p.m., Fox) … Breanna’s love life sets a parent trap on “One on One” (8 p.m., UPN) … On two episodes of “7th Heaven” (8 p.m., WB), a major deception (8 p.m.), and not Simon pure (9 p.m.).

Publicity trumps friendship on “All of Us” (8:30 p.m., UPN).

Ashanti and Jon Lovitz guest-star on “Las Vegas” (9 p.m., NBC) … Toni worries about her mother on “Girlfriends” (9 p.m., UPN) … On two episodes of “Two and a Half Men” (CBS), mother knows worst (9 p.m.), and Alan freaks out (9:30 p.m.) … Phyllis the cat lady on “Half & Half” (9:30 p.m., UPN).

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