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Primal Screen

MLK: The Assassination Tapes re-creates a tragic event

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MLK: The Assassination Tapes (8pm Sunday, Smithsonian Channel)
This doc re-creates the days before and after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination using TV and radio reports from the time, most not broadcast since 1968. It gives you the feeling that you’re living through the civil rights leader’s last minutes.

You’re right there on the Memphis street as police rough up protesters during King’s demonstration in support of striking sanitation workers. “There goes another tear gas canister,” notes a TV reporter on the scene. You’re listening to a police scanner seconds after the murder. “You are to form a ring around the Lorraine Hotel. No one is to enter or leave.”

Yes, it’s a plunge back into hell. The only thing that makes the program bearable is footage of positive developments immediately following the tragedy. A group of white ministers, for example, had luck petitioning Memphis’ previously inflexible mayor on the sanitation strike: “We are persuaded that only when a spirit of flexibility and good will dominates can true peace and progress come to our city.”
It’s a small consolation, but I’ll take it.

Grammy Awards (7pm Sunday, CBS)
Rihanna will wear a shockingly revealing outfit in a duet with Coldplay; Kelly Clarkson will hit an ear-shattering  high note; and Nicki Minaj will don a two-foot-high pink wig. The ceremony will also feature performances by Paul McCartney and Bruno Mars.

In other words, a fun night, though nothing we haven’t seen before. Nothing on the schedule promises out-of-the-ordinary thrills, like Florence and the Machine’s ecstatic “Dog Days Are Over” at the MTV Video Music Awards or Lady Gaga’s ash-smeared duet with Elton John at the Grammys a couple years ago.

Maybe if McCartney wears the shockingly revealing outfit and Bruno Mars dons the two-foot-high pink wig?

Worst Cooks in America (8pm Sunday, Food Network)
This competition features the 16 worst cooks in America, as nominated by their long-suffering families. The cook who makes the most progress wins $25,000 (most of which, I suspect, will be spent on carryout food).

In the season premiere, the cooks make an inedible mess of pancakes with vanilla whipped cream and cinnamon maple syrup.

Here’s an idea: How about just adding more whipped cream and syrup? Now give me my $25,000!

House of Lies (9pm Sunday, Showtime)
This new series is a satire of the management-consultant racket. Don Cheadle plays a high-priced business expert (read: con artist) who convinces fat cats to waste millions on his team of MBA’s (Kristen Bell, Ben Schwartz, Josh Larson). It’s hard to root for the consultants, however, since they’re as grotesque as their clients. Cheadle’s character is a particularly unappealing antihero — foulmouthed, corrupt, manipulative, and heartless.

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