www.whyville.net Jan 30, 2004 Weekly Issue

City Worker & Times Writer


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These listings cover television programs up to Friday, February 6.

Greetings, TV viewers!

The programs this week are about various ethnic groups in North America and their contribution to the history and culture of the continent. The topic for the Media Hour this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Whyville Time in the Greek Theatre is "What's the contribution to your nation of the ethnic group with which you identify?" Another way of asking the question is, "What would your country be like if your ethnic group wasn't there at all?"

For the Media Hour, watch the show(s)-of-the-week, jot down some ideas, then talk about them with me and other citizens (including other City Workers, if they're available) at the Greek Theater, over in City Hall. You'll find that the Theater makes discussions pretty easy, since City Workers are able to direct people's movement and behavior, when we need to, and it keeps everyone's chat bubbles from overlapping too much. We meet for MediaHour on Wednesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Whyville Time (that's the same as Eastern Daylight Time).

Friday, January 30

"Modern Marvels: Cemeteries" (History Channel, 7-8 p.m. E/P) Don't read any more of this description if the subject of the funeral industry turns you off. Otherwise, take into account that more than 2 million people die in the U.S. each year. That works out to about 5,500 burials a day, with roughly 80 percent being buried in a casket, and the remaining 20 percent electing to be cremated or finding another alternative. This program looks at dealing with the dead throughout the centuries, and at today's $20 billion funeral industry. Funeral executives, including operators of the famous Forest Lawn Memorial Park are interviewed. And historians explain how cultural attitudes about death have evolved over time, and how economics has long been integrated into these views. The ancient Greeks, for example, put coins on the eyes of the deceased to pay the tolls required to pass into the afterlife. Today's arrangements, like putting ashes into orbit, are more expensive. Program rated TV-G.

Saturday, January 31

"Presidents On Super Sunday" (History Channel 10-11 p.m. E/P, repeating Sunday, Feb. 1 at 5-6 p.m. E/P) On the last Sunday in January, American eyes turn to the Super Bowl. And included among the millions of fans immersed in the game is the President of the United States, who unlike the average fan, must simultaneously remain focused on matters of national and international significance. This documentary provides a look at presidential moments during Super Bowl Sunday, featuring interviews with former presidents and key administration officials -- from the first Super Bowl in 1967 to today. Program rated TV-G.

Sunday, February 1

"Dateline NBC" (NBC, 7-8 p.m. E/P) This is a documentary about the business aspect of rock and roll. You'll follow three young girls and their mother who are willing to do what it takes for a shot at a recording contract -- one that could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and a chance at real stardom. "Triple Image", their group, attempts to become superstars. Will their mother, working two jobs to support them, their manager, who reps some of the hottest groups in the business, and a lot of luck help them make it in this highly competitive business?

"Nature: the Urban Elephant" (PBS, 8-9 p.m. E/P) This documentary explores the bittersweet stories of seven Asian elephants that are living out their lives in captivity in circuses, zoos, farms and forest logging camps. It also travels to Bangkok, Thailand, to witness an amazing sight: giant elephants that take to the city streets.

Monday, February 2

"American Experience: Remember The Alamo" (PBS 9-10 p.m. E/P) This is a documentary (there's a movie coming out later this year) about Texas. Long before the fall of the Alamo fortress to the forces of General Santa Ana made heroes of Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett and spawned the well-known battle cry, Jose Antonio Navarro and a group of Tejanos -- Mexicans of Texas who had lived there for generations -- started the battle for Texas. This program explores the life of the famed Tejano leader and his efforts to protect the sovereignty of his homeland as it passed through the hands of multiple governments. Hector Elizondo narrates. Look at the website, too: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/alamo/

"Day Of the Groundhog" (Animal Planet Channel, 9-10 p.m. E/P) This is not the movie "Groundhog Day," but something more strange ??? because the story in this documentary is true. It's four stories, actually. Every February 2nd (today) in a number of small towns across North America, otherwise normal people go a little crazy and stage a celebration of a rodent (scientific name "marmota monax") otherwise know as the Groundhog. Legend has it that on this day, if the groundhog comes out of its underground burrow and sees its shadow, the winter will continue for 6 more weeks. If it doesn't see a shadow ??? then spring is just around the corner. This documentary visits four communities, each of which claims to be the home of the best weather forecasting celebrity groundhog of them all. In Wiarton, Ontario, an albino groundhog named Willie is the star. In Quarryville, Pennsylvania, the celebrated animal is called Orfy. In Atlanta, Georgia, the creature is General Beauregard. And in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, arguably the most famous groundhog of all, Punxsutawney Phil, attracts as many as 30,000 people to witness his seasonal prediction.

"Roots" (Hallmark Channel, 9-11 p.m. E/P) This is the initial episode of the excellent... I would even say superior... dramatic miniseries about African-American history. In observance of African American History Month, it's airing this week -- one episode each night. (And later this month the whole six part series will be presented in a marathon airing on the16th beginning at 11 a.m.) The drama is based on the best-selling autobiographical novel by author Alex Haley. "Roots" chronicles the progress of Haley's own family across many generations, from the kidnapping of an African warrior by American slave traders to eventual post-Civil War freedom. Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton) is a young tribesman of coastal Africa who has passed the rituals marking his transition into manhood. Searching for wood to build a drum, he is set upon by slavers who sell him
in the United States after a nightmarish Atlantic crossing. Defiant, Kunta refuses to consider himself a slave, despite some sage advice from his mentor, the more mature Fiddler (Louis Gossett, Jr.). As the years pass, the aging Kunta (John Amos) is hobbled for his repeated escape attempts. Realizing he'll never return to Africa, Kunta settles down, becoming husband to Bell (Madge Sinclair) and father to Kizzy (Leslie Uggams), a girl infused with her father's independent spirit. Sold by her new master, Kizzy has a son, Chicken George (Ben Vereen), a happy-go-lucky cockfighting expert who uses his skills to buy his freedom. George paves the way for his children, the great-grandchildren of Kunta Kinte, who finally become free in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Series also available on video and DVD.

Tuesday, February 3

"Umoja: America Beyond the Color Line" (PBS, 9-11 p.m. E/P) In this documentary miniseries Harvard's head of Afro-American Studies, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., travels to Memphis, Birmingham and Atlanta -- once the battlegrounds on which civil rights were won for black southerners in the 1950s and '60s -- to examine African-American life in America. He also visits the notorious housing projects in Chicago's South Side. These initial 2 episodes are entitled "The Black Belt" and "Chicago: Streets of Heaven" The final 2 episodes, entitled "Ebony Towers" and "Los Angeles: Black Hollywood" cover, respectively, the xistence of a small group of African Americans at the heart of the political establishment and at the pinnacle of corporate America -- something that, just two decades ago, seemed unimaginable. Does this new black power elite represent genuine progress for black America as a whole? Dr. Gates also visits Hollywood, asking: Is Hollywood institutionally racist or is it becoming increasingly color-blind in pursuit of the box office dollar?

Wednesday, February 4

"The Alcan Highway" (History Channel, 7-8 p.m. E/P) Today, vacationers travel from British Columbia north through the Yukon Pass on their way to Fairbanks, Alaska, thanks to one two-lane road., the 1,522-mile long Alaska Highway. It's an unrivaled engineering feat that took 11,000 soldiers, nearly 4,000 of them black, only 8 months to build. As the Japanese Navy menaced the coast of North America these people had to quickly build an inland travel route out of gunboat range, from the lower 48 states to the U.S. Alaskan Territory -- through Canadian land. Another version of this story is presented by authors K.S. Coates and W.R. Morrison in their book, "The Alaska Highway in World War II: The U.S. Army of Occupation in Canada's Northwest" (University of Toronto Press, 1992). It's a description of the 'friendly invasion' made into the Peace River country in 1942 by the US Military and civilian construction organizations needed to build the highway. The project is covered from all angles, including the whys and hows, to the impact on the environment, natives, social relations, law enforcement, and race relations. There's even more information at http://www.visi.com/~alcan/.

Thursday, February 5

"Reggae: The Story of Jamaican Music" (Bravo Channel, 8-9 p.m. E/P) Using archival footage, interviews and performances, this comprehensive two-hour special journeys from reggae's roots to its popularity across Europe and America to its fusion with modern hip-hop. Featured performers and stars include Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton and many more.

Friday, February 6

"Cats!" (A&E Channel, 8-10 p.m. E/P)
This documentary takes on the mighty question of whether dogs are man's best friend. Statistics show that cats are America's favorite pets. This looks at domestic cats in an historical as well as cultural and sociological light -- breeds, behavior, the business of cats, feline superstitions, and cats' place in pop culture.


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