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John Leonard's TV Notes

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China in the Red (February 13; 9 to 11 p.m.; Channel 13), written, produced, and directed for Frontline by Sue Williams, follows ten Chinese citizens—rural farmers, factory workers, and entrepreneurs—through the still-new market economy, which even as it has made millionaires has also cost 34 million Chinese their jobs and created a culture of kickbacks and corruption that has even claimed the mayor of one of the newly prosperous go-go cities.

Meredith Willson’s The Music Man (February 16; 7 to 10 p.m.; ABC) saves River City, Iowa, yet again from a plague of pool with a blare of trombones. It’s all very retro-Disney, not harmful but oddly flat. As the traveling salesman himself, Matthew Broderick is a nice guy, but he will always look 19 years old. As Marian the librarian, Kristin Chenoweth has the best voice in the cast, which comes in handy for “Goodnight, My Someone,” but she mugs unconscionably, as if to reach the back of the balcony. Victor Garber, Molly Shannon, and Debra Monk carry the comic spears.

Deacons for Defense (February 16; 8 to 10 p.m.; Showtime) radicalizes Forest Whitaker in Bogalusa, Louisiana, in 1965, when his daughter is beaten by cops at a civil-rights demonstration. But Whitaker, who still remembers a lynching from his childhood, isn’t about about to join Ossie Davis, the local reverend, or Jonathan Silverman and Adam Weiner, the northern white boys down for Freedom Summer, in philosophical nonviolence. Instead, he and his friends arm themselves with automatic weapons and grenades to take on the Klan.

Open House (February 16; 9 to 11 p.m.; CBS), adapted from Elizabeth Berg’s novel, follows Christine Lahti as she copes with the abrupt desertion of her husband (Chris Potter) by ignoring her opinionated mother (Eva Marie Saint), taking in boarders (Rita Moreno), and taking up carpentry, while flirting with the local proletariat (Daniel Baldwin). Of course, the local proletariat will turn out to cook lasagne, read books, and have a Ph.D. in astrophysics from MIT, but Lahti deserves him anyway.

Together: Stop Violence Against Women (February 16; 11 p.m. to midnight; Lifetime), co-produced by Rory Kennedy and Liz Garbus and co-hosted by Angie Harmon and Jason Sehorn, profiles four different victims of violence (stalking, domestic abuse, date rape) and interviews Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes.


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