Controversial New York Senate contender Caroline Kennedy hosts. Barbra Streisand, Morgan Freeman, George Jones, Twyla Tharp, Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey are being feted.
And performances include Beyonce crooning 'The Way We Were' to Streisand, Denzel Washington and Clint Eastwood paying tribute to their pal Freeman, Garth Brooks rocking out to Jones tunes and Matchbox 20 singer Rob Thomas singing the Who's 'Baba O'Riley.'
But we're betting that you, like us, are going to tune in just to get a glimpse of Babs planting a smooch on her political enemy, President Dubya Bush.
The death penalty, not unlike abortion rights, is a polarizing topic, and advocates on both sides of the death penalty debate have strong feelings about a state's right to end the life of a human being.
In "Race to Execution," which airs on PBS' Independent Lens on March 27 at 10:00 p.m., the question as to whether race plays a role in death penalty convictions is made the center focus. One story deals with Madison Hobley, a Chicago man sentenced to death for allegedly setting a fire that killed seven people, including his wife and young child. The other story deals with Robert Tarver, accused of shooting a white general store owner in Alabama. In the end, one man is executed and the other is exonerated.
The documentary takes the stance that a person's race, and the overall race of the jury, does play a significant role in whether or not a person is sentenced to death. However, the two people behind the film, Rachel Lyon and Jim Lopes, are on both sides of the debate (Lopes supports the death penalty and Lyon does not). No single work can serve as the ultimate Truth on the death penalty, but "Race to Execution" does offer one angle that's worth considering for anyone interested in educating themselves about this issue, no matter what their belief happens to be.
Most people recognize the name Duke Ellington, but very few know the name Billy Strayhorn. The documentary Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life, which will be featured tonight on the PBS series Independent Lens at 10:00 p.m., hopes to change that. Strayhorn composed many of Ellington's hits, but his quiet demeanor kept him in Ellington's shadow. Also, he was an openly gay black man living in the '40s, a time when most remained closeted for fear of violence or worse.
I've written for newspapers and magazines, but I've always been apprehensive about calling myself a journalist because it was never my major in college. In fact, my college didn't even have that as a major. I've always been fascinated by the career itself, however, and learning about all the obstacles that go along with getting a story.
If you share my interest in anything having to do with the media, and independent media especially, you'll probably enjoy Democracy on Deadline, which appears as part of the PBS series Independent Lens on November 21 at 10 pm. The documentary looks at independent journalists in several parts of the world, from right here in the United States to places like Russia and the Middle East. In the US, the problem for journalists is breaking through the wall of secrecy put up by the Bush White House during the days leading up to the Iraq war, and during the war itself. The documentary does not, however, place all blame on the government, it also points out how shoddy journalistic standards and a disinterested public have played a significant role in slowing down the flow of information.
The PBS series Independent Lens kicks off its fifth season on October 24 at 9 p.m. with The World According to Sesame Street, an in-depth look at how productions of the long-running children's series are created in other parts of the world. The special looks specifically at productions in Bangladesh, Kosovo and South Africa where the simple moral lessons of Sesame Street must somehow permeate cultures rife with political conflict, genocide, disease and starvation. This seems like a wild leap from the American version, and it is, but it's also worth pointing out that the original Sesame Street was subtly geared towards the poor and disenfranchised, taking place on an actual urban inner city street rather than some mystical far away land. The guiding ethos of Sesame Street has never been complete escapism, but rather making children better understand the world around them, and changing the scope of the series as time goes on in order to remain relevant. When the South African version of Sesame Street introduced a character with AIDS, some groups found it distasteful, but in a country where the number of people with HIV and AIDS has reached epidemic levels, it would make less sense not to bring in such a character.
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