'The Americans': Spies in the suburbs
Published: January 30, 2013
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (8pm Mon, HBO)
Over a creepy, ominous soundtrack, this documentary digs into the Catholic Church’s decades-long attempt to silence victims of sexual abuse. We’ve heard parts of this story before, but Mea Maxima Culpa distinguishes itself by focusing on the first known public protest against clerical abuse in the U.S. It was lodged by students at a Milwaukee school for the deaf, who had been sexually assaulted by the sinister Father Lawrence Murphy. Now grown, these men powerfully sign their testimony onscreen, with actors such as Ethan Hawke and Chris Cooper filling in the audio. They shed light on a cover-up that stretches all the way to future pope Joseph Ratzinger.
Never has a creepy, ominous soundtrack been so justified.
Pioneers of Television (7pm Tue, PBS)
Once upon a time, children, the broadcast networks poured money into multi-part dramas that America watched en masse. This week’s look at the miniseries genre recounts its shining moment, the eight-day broadcast of Roots in 1977. Business as usual ground to a halt — and even Las Vegas casinos closed — as citizens gathered around their TVs to see slavery as it had never been portrayed before.
“It did more than entertain,” says star LeVar Burton. “It served as a vehicle for enlightenment and empowerment.”
Enlightenment and empowerment on 1970s TV? Dorothy, I don’t think we’re in Bonanza anymore.
Smash (8pm Tue, NBC)
I’d love to watch a weekly backstage musical with solid songs, grand performances and intriguing drama. But the second-season premiere of Smash is a reminder that the songs are banal, the performances are bland, and the drama is preposterous.
As the starlet who plays Marilyn Monroe in a Broadway musical, Katharine McPhee has all the luster of an American Idol runner-up. Jennifer Hudson sings a couple of show-stopping numbers that really do stop the show — they have nothing to do with the plot. Debra Messing’s character, who cowrote the Monroe musical, has one of the episode’s several melodramatic breakdowns: “Everything I’ve done has turned out so wrong!”