One of the few good things to come out of the current, seemingly endless wars are some stellar documentaries, reflecting what’s really going on in places like Afghanistan. There, the dust and cultural differences are equally obscuring. And in Dafung Dennis’ remarkable film, “Hell and Back Again,” making its debut on on “Independent Lens” (PBS, 10 p.m., check local listings), the danger lurks everywhere of bullets zinging in on the U.S. Marines Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.
It’s an especially deft look at the results of an injured Marine, coping back in North Carolina, whose mind wanders back to the war. It accomplishes two big things: reminds us on Memorial Day the sacrifices of fighting men and women and the frustrating cul de sac in Afghanistan, where the U.S. troops are seen by locals as an intrusive force scarcely better than the Taliban they’re chasing off. And it gives an unusually close up look at the struggles that are just beginning for loved ones once the damaged fighters return.
Things are a little more straightforward in “Witness: G.I. Homecoming” (National Geographic, 10 p.m.), which looks at a handful of surprise soldier homecomings, using footage loved ones shot themselves. It’s never clear how a reunion staged as a surprise stunt enhances the homecoming. Rather, it turns what should have been personal into a “Punk’d” episode.
Other Memorial Day Fare: “Flags of Our Fathers” (AMC, 8 p.m.), “The Bridge Over the River Kwai” (TCM, 8 p.m.), “A Few Good Men” (CMT, 8 p.m.), “The Great Escape” (TCM, 1 a.m.), “Kelly’s Heroes” (TCM, 2 a.m.) and “An Annapolis Story” (TCM, 4:30 a.m.).
Keke Palmer of “True Jackson VP” stars in the latest teen musical, “Rags” (Nickelodeon, 8 p.m.), portraying a pop star who meets a janitor (Max Schneider of “How to Rock” ) trying to catch a break. Also in the cast: Drake Bell.
It’s a big day for young singers when they are given sessions from an opera great. He happens at the Julillard School where one of its former students returns to encourage them in “Renee Fleming: A YoungArts Masterclass” (HBO, 6 p.m.).
Season finales are set for both the “Basketball Wives” (VH1, 8 p.m.) and “Bethenny Ever After” (Bravo, 10 p.m.).
At the same time, the scripted show that’s meant to look like a reality show, “Single Ladies” (VH1, 9 p.m.) returns for another season. Meanwhile “The Bachelorette” (ABC. 8 p.m.) goes to Dollywood. This is what happens when you set your season in Charlotte instead of Los Angeles.
“America’s Got Talent” (NBC, 8 p.m.) travels to Tampa for its latest round of auditions. And it’s the region two finals for those hoping to become the “American Ninja Warrior” (NBC, 9 p.m.).
Next stop for “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” (Travel, 9 p.m.) is Baja, Mexico.
Even marriage doesn’t stop the conflicts for the family on “Gene Simmons Family Jewels” (A&E, 9 p.m.).
A new season starts for the penny-pinchers on “Extreme Couponing” (TLC, 10 p.m.).
show some say has wreckedToday’s the day you can watch both “Kung Fu Panda” (FX, 8 and 10:30 p.m.) and “Kung Fu Panda 2” (HBO Family, 7 p.m.) at roughly the same time.
The French Open (ESPN2, 5 a.m.) continues early round action.
Baseball games includes Cardinals at Braves, (MLB, 1 p.m.) and Yankees at Angels (MLB, 9 p.m.).
It’s game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals of Celtics at Heat (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.).
Kelly Ripa: Jim Parsons, Katie Brown, Rick & Corey Harrison, Austin “Chumlee” Russell Mark Consuelos. The View: Bill Evans. The Talk: Julie Andrews, Train (rerun). Ellen DeGeneres: Ellie Kemper, Rufus Wainwright.
David Letterman: Chris Hemsworth, Darrell Hammond, Calvin Johnson, Miike Snow (rerun). Jay Leno: Robert Downey Jr. , Katharine McPhee, the Arts for Amnesty Band (rerun). Jimmy Kimmel: Steve Harvey, Dev Patel, Glenn Frey (rerun). Jimmy Fallon: Amy Poehler, Daniel Dae Kim, Lady Anebellum (rerun). Craig Ferguson: Benjamin McKenzie, Shohreg, Aghdashloo. Tavis Smiley: Janet Evans (rerun). Carson Daly: Amir Bar-Lev, Lee Fields and the Expressions, Chef Paul Qui, Roll the Tanks (rerun). Conan O’Brien:Ice T & Coco, Adam Pally, Wale featuring Miguel. Chelsea Handler: Bar Fafaeli, Michael Yo, Sarah Colonna, Josh Wolf.