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Primal Screen

Good cop, bad cop: in 'Golden Boy', they're the same person

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

'Golden Boy'

Golden Boy (Tuesday, 9 p.m., CBS)
This is a new cop drama that takes an original approach to its protagonist. Walter Clark (Theo James) is not only a smart, capable police officer with a vulnerable streak (nothing new there), but an opportunist. He has a lean, hungry look, watching for the main chance at all times. That’s not necessarily an attractive quality.

Indeed, Golden Boy has the guts to make Walter a complicated young man. He grew up as a street kid, and he’s still not shy about cutting corners to get what he wants. His partner (Chi McBride) and fellow officers are unsettled by the showboat in their midst, and they take pains to put him in his place. That gives Golden Boy a chance to explore police-office politics rather than just cracking cases.

“Inside every man there are two dogs fighting,” Walter’s partner tells him. “One’s good, one’s evil. You know who wins? The one you feed the most.”

To Golden Boy’s credit, the pilot doesn’t indicate which of Walter’s dogs will ultimately win.

American Masters (9pm Fri, PBS)
A portrait of the mid-century gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe dubs her “The Godmother of Rock and Roll.” If that sounds like a stretch, wait until you see the archival clips, in which Sister Rosetta plays twangy Chuck Berry-style electric guitar before Berry himself ever did. Her gutsy singing also influenced Bob Dylan, who called her “a powerful force of nature.”

Amen. In her day, Sister Rosetta was a star in both pop and gospel, helping break down the barriers between the secular and the sacred. According to one commentator, her early gospel hit “Rock Me” sounds like “an invitation, and not to the altar.” Truly, for all her devotion to the Lord, Sister Rosetta had a rebellious streak, and she became gospel music’s first superstar on her own terms.

The documentary’s highlight is a clip of Sister Rosetta in her last recorded appearance, shortly before her death in 1973. Ailing and depressed, she sings “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” with a combination of hope and despair that evokes the sublimity of the human soul. If the performance doesn’t make your knees go weak, you’re made of sterner stuff than I am.

Academy Awards (7pm Sun, ABC)
January’s Golden Globes achieved awards-ceremony perfection: comic-genius hosts (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler), daringly eccentric presenters (Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell), and loopy recipients who got people talking for days (Jodie Foster). There’s no way the Oscars can compete with that, given their insistence on handing out all those technical awards that only industry insiders care about. The choice of Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane as host looks like a desperate stab for edginess, but he does offer reason for hope, especially after his strong performance hosting Saturday Night Live last fall.

I find several of the Best Picture candidates overrated. There’s one, and only one, that I’m pulling for, which is why I’ll wear a stovepipe hat during the broadcast.

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