Nonfiction Special

What the reality categories lack in variety, the nonfiction specials more than compensate for, featuring stellar one-off programs on war, peace and Pixar.

Two months after concluding his run as Tony Soprano, three-time Emmy winner James Gandolfini returned to HBO as producer of “Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq,” a powerful documentary voters aren’t likely to forget. Ten wounded soldiers — including a former gymnast now missing both legs and a hand, and a redheaded officer with a prosthetic shoulder and arm to match her fair complexion — provide Gandolfini with eloquent, understated accounts of the harrowing day they nearly died: their “alive day.”

“Autism: The Musical,” another HBO documentary, concerns challenges on the domestic front, depicting the frustrations and joys of mounting a musical production starring autistic children. Voters will be drawn equally to the kids and their parents, who face considerable struggles daily.

The remaining nominees feature showbiz-centric subjects: PBS’ “Pioneers of Television — Late Night: Johnny, Jack, Steve, and Merv” chronicles the history and controversies behind television’s earliest latenight talkshow hosts. “AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Movies — 10th Anniversary Edition” updates its original list of the 100 best movies to reflect how tastes have changed in the last decade, featuring clips and commentary on the picks. “The Pixar Story,” from Oscar-nominated helmer Leslie Iwerks (“Recycled Life”), tells the riveting tale of how an animator, an entrepreneur and a computer scientist built the revolutionary, hitmaking computer-animation studio.

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