A Fierce Green Fire Kind of Flames Out, Tuesday, Apr. 22

AMERICAN MASTERS: A FIERCE GREEN FIRE

Who will want to watch? - Elementary age and older

How safe is it? - Pretty darned safe

How good is it? - Mostly amiable, and loaded with facts, but not much else

Film in honor of Earth Day airs on PBS tonight, check your local listings for times.

About a third of a way into this documentary film about the history of the Green or environmental movement, I’m suddenly struck by the reality that of the five or six talking heads I’ve seen, all of them are older White males. Eventually, three White women and one Black man show up. And one of the acts is narrated by author Isabelle Allende and looks at the protests fueled by Chico Mendes in South America.

The narrative, narrated by multiple people, is very heavy on what happened, but not much else. It feels a little like Joe Friday won the day and all we’re getting is the facts and nothing but the facts. In short, a very dramatic story is somewhat lacking in drama. Feh.

I do feel a little guilty poking holes in the doc, because it is an important story. And it is a cause I’m rather passionate about. And ultimately, it is a rather interesting story, even if the telling of it isn’t as solid as I would like. And your mileage may vary.

 

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Bad Boys Looks at Detroit Pistons of the 1980s, Thursday, Apr. 17

Isaiah Thomas, courtesy ESPN

Isaiah Thomas, courtesy ESPN

BAD BOYS

Who will want to watch? - Basketball fans of all ages

How safe is it? - Some bleeped language and the general tough tactics

How good is it? - Pretty good, probably better if you know or remember the story

This latest installment of ESPN’s 30 For 30 film series premieres tonight on the channel at 8 p.m.

Back around 1985/86, professional basketball had two teams – the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. This was the era of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. The Chicago Bulls were just barely coming into their own, as well. Then there was a team out of Detroit that was trying to rebuild with a young point guard named Isaiah Thomas and a pugnacious center named Bill Laimbeer. Yeah, them guys. My husband’s lip still curls when he says Laimbeer’s name. But then, we’re Lakers fans in this household, more or less.

The Pistons were a team that got known for very rough play, although according to the doc, it was as much about getting in the heads of Larry Bird and the other Celtics in order to win. In short, the team was not very popular. But what’s interesting about the doc is that not only is it told from the perspective of the players, it really focuses on the team’s struggle to get on top and stay there. Talk about perseverance – it took these guys from 1981 to 1989 to win their first NBA Championship and they did it again in 1990.

Safety-wise, of course, there are some mild issues with language and the occasional bleeped (but you know which one it was) word. The other issue might be the almost glorification of borderline dirty play. These guys were not above breaking the rules, such as fouling other players – Laimbeer famously took down Bird during one of their games. The film doesn’t apologize for the behavior, but they do note that it wasn’t particularly good. How you feel about that might depend on whether you’re from L.A., Boston or Chicago, or maybe not.

On the other hand, the film does praise perseverance and the idea that you don’t have to be liked to be effective.

It’s reasonably good, but it does drag a little here and there. But then, I’m not a big basketball fan and this was a team people loved to hate.

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Thought for the Day – Why Reality TV? Wednesday, Apr. 16

ParkerThought4DayIf we are a Golden Age of Television programming – and we are – then why is there still reality TV? And why do they even call it reality when so little of it is actually real? Sigh.

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Tax Day Program Notes, Tuesday, Apr. 15

Courtesy Nickelodeon

Courtesy Nickelodeon

You really have to wonder what demented wisdom is inspiring certain programming executives at this time. Today is Tax Day, and as the beloved spouse noted, there is a certain tendency for we Americans to wait until The Last Possible Second to file our tax returns.

So why is it that two networks decided to premiere three, count them three, awesome shows tonight (4/15) when most of us are going to be getting up close and personal with our calculators. Okay, I’ll give Nickelodeon and PBS Kids some credit for keeping the Junior Members out of our faces while we deal with the fact (as Erma Bombeck once put it) that what the government allows us for a deduction for said Junior Members won’t freaking keep them in peanut butter.

As much as I am not a fan of the work of Ken Burns, I was kind of looking forward to his film The Address, which looks at how we see The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln nowadays. It’s premiering tonight on PBS, check your local listings for times. I’ve often said that Burns seriously needs less money and less time to tell his stories and it looks like he got it with this one. But did I have time to look at it? No. I was busy figuring out which of my expenses I could legitimately deduct.

Cyberchase, The Movie, didn’t land on my doorstep until yesterday afternoon and by that time I was up to my neck in receipts. It premieres tonight on PBS and I love the series overall, so I do think it’s worth looking at. It’s also got some Earth Day thing going on. I’m too busy trying to figure out if my gas company expenses count as a deduction.

Finally, one of the most awesome series for news and kids, NickNews, has got Sidelined: How safe are kids’ sports premiering tonight at 8 p.m. on Nickelodeon. I love what Linda Ellerbee does with these specials – she doesn’t talk down to kids and has the remarkable ability to get right to the point. But did I have a chance to look at it? No! I was busy playing with TurboTax and praying that I’d already paid the Feds enough to not have to pay more.

So there you are. Hope your Tax Day is going somewhat more smoothly. And, yes, it looks like there might be a refund in my future. Happy Drooling, everyone!

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Years of Living Dangerously Hits Home, Sunday, Apr. 13

Harrison Ford and Lafcadio Cortesi of the Rainforest Action Network, courtesy Showtime

Harrison Ford and Lafcadio Cortesi of the Rainforest Action Network, courtesy Showtime

YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY

Who will want to watch? - Elementary age and older

How safe is it? - Could be scary to younger viewers because of the dire nature of the problem and how far-reaching it is

How good is it? - Very well, made and seems pretty consistent with current literature

Nine part series premieres tonight on Showtime at 10 p.m. and the premiere is available on YouTube, the Showtime website and as an iTunes podcast, as well on various OnDemand channels, depending on your carrier.

As if I wasn’t depressed enough working on changing passwords (who knew it could take so long to change over 200 of them?) and doing my taxes (which still aren’t done), I had to set aside time to watch this really important show. And while it is depressing to watch what’s going on in Indonesia, with the de-forestation and the lack of government intervention, and in Syria, where climate change was probably behind the current civil war there, it is important to know what’s going on.

And believe it or not, there are things we can do to help the Indonesian situation, or even the third story, featuring Don Cheadle going to a small town in Texas to help the Evangelical Christians there understand that, yes, climate change is human-caused and that science is not in conflict with their faith. Cheadle approaches the people there with a respect that I confess, I have not had. We need to hold compassion for those who disagree with us if we are to have a prayer of changing their minds. And, alas, minds do need changing if we are, as a planet, to beat this particular scourge.

There may not be much I can do about the corrupt Minister of Forrestry in Indonesia, but I can avoid products with palm oil in them. Because palm oil is used in so many different products from soaps to margarines, the demand for the oil is insanely high and farmers trying to make a living in Indonesia are razing forests to plant the palm trees that produce the oil, which are then razed to harvest the oil. The premiere episode doesn’t really mention what Indonesians are supposed to do for a living without palm oil plantations, but it is one of the few faults I found.

The idea of using celebrities to take us through these stories is that they are asking the questions for us, the viewers. That and the reality is, folks will look at the show because they love Harrison Ford or Matt Damon or Jessica Alba. Fortunately, well-respected journalist Thomas Friedman, of the New York Times, is also taking us on the journey, specifically through Syria, a region he’s been reporting on for most of his career.

As hard as it was for me as an adult to find hope and encouragement in the series, younger viewers might feel even more hopeless. But as you, perhaps go through your pantry to eliminate foods with palm oil – usually the over-processed stuff we shouldn’t be eating anyway – you can explain that as people became aware of how dolphins were being killed by the fishing nets used to catch tuna that ended up canned in our pantries, they started looking for and buying dolphin-safe or line caught tuna and now almost all canned tuna is line caught. In short, we can all do things to reduce our carbon footprint, including writing our representatives and encouraging them to put pressure on Indonesia (and other governments) to stop de-forestation and provide alternatives for the people there. It’s not hopeless, but it is dire.

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