Sobering look at history

Z ON TV

October 13, 2008|By DAVID ZURAWIK | DAVID ZURAWIK,david.zurawik@baltsun.com

Ted Koppel retired from ABC News a few years back, but he certainly hasn't stopped delivering thoughtful and serious journalism. And he continues that tonight with a new documentary, Koppel on Discovery: The Last Lynching.

There is a warning that some viewers might find scenes and language "disturbing." Consider whether you want your children seeing images of lynchings of black citizens in 20th-century America and hearing the "n" word. Discovery is airing the program at 10 p.m., as late as possible to keep it from young children, but still in prime time when the greatest number of viewers are available.

Koppel places this hard-eyed look at race relations within the context of Sen. Barack Obama's historic candidacy, then lays out a road map for where he is going to take viewers. He says it is "tempting to celebrate how far we've come to relegate lynching to a past so far distant that no one living among has ever been touched" by it. But that is "not quite" true. And the "not quite" is said with irony and understatement.

Koppel deftly shows how the memory and the intended messages of lynchings live among us today. (Discovery, 10 p.m) *** 1/2

A BETTER ENEMY THAN EXPECTED The premise takes a major suspension of disbelief, but shut off your brain and let yourself go with Christian Slater's performance in NBC's My Own Worst Enemy. (10 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) ** 1/2

LATE-NIGHT GUESTS Sarah Silverman visits the Late Show with David Letterman. Actress Selma Blair appears on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

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