Archive for Thursday, August 16, 2007

Death of Presley still resonates

August 16, 2007

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The king is gone, but he's not forgotten. On this date 30 summers ago, Elvis Presley's death at age 42 shocked the nation and provoked an outpouring of grief unseen since the assassinations of the 1960s.

In many ways, Elvis' death changed America, and particularly the media. Back in 1977, popular culture and "the news" were considered separate items. You read newspapers or news magazines for the news and People or the National Enquirer for gossip and entertainment information.

On the day Presley died, CBS News began Walter Cronkite's broadcast with a story about the negotiation of the Panama Canal treaty. That was considered more newsworthy than the death of a rock star turned Las Vegas singer. Viewers were shocked and outraged and turned elsewhere to follow the Elvis vigil. In the following days, the pilgrimage of hundreds of thousands of mourners to Memphis and Graceland surprised many in the media and made some rethink their notion of the balance between hard news and more emotional pop culture fare. Some were shocked when President Jimmy Carter took the time to comment on Presley's sudden death.

In the decades since, the coverage of celebrity deaths, from John Belushi to Kurt Cobain to Princess Diana has been given hard-news status. The recent orgy of coverage for Anna Nicole Smith suggests that the media pendulum may have moved a tad too far from the time when the death of the king of rock and roll was not considered "real" news.

"Urban Myths and Legends" (9 p.m., TV Land) commemorates Presley with a half-hour look at enduring stories and rumors about him. Beginning at 5 a.m., Turner Classic Movies will devote an entire day to his films, including the good "Jail House Rock" (7 p.m.), the bad "Harum Scarum" (3:30 p.m.) and the ugly "Clambake" (10:30 p.m.).

¢ The Oscar-nominated short film "Recycled Life" (6 p.m., Cinemax) documents the remarkable and tragic world of Guatemala's "guajeros," a population of scavengers who live in the nation's largest garbage dump and who earn a meager living picking through, recycling and selling other people's discarded stuff. More than three generations of uneducated and illiterate people have lived and died in the vast dump amid toxic fumes and bubbling methane. Edward James Olmos narrates.

¢ The construction of a cabin in the Smokey Mountains becomes a cybercollaboration as the series "Blog Cabin" (8 p.m., DIY) presents award-winning designs culled from Internet submissions.

¢ Rome's most enduring stadium explained on "Engineering the Impossible: The Colosseum" (7 p.m., National Geographic). Followed by "Engineering Egypt" (8 p.m.).

Tonight's other highlights

  • The gang appears on a "Cops" repeat on "My Name is Earl" (7 p.m., NBC).
  • Betty deceives Marc's mother (Patti LuPone) on "Ugly Betty" (7 p.m., ABC).
  • A winner emerges on "So You Think You Can Dance" (7 p.m., Fox).
  • "Biography" (8 p.m., Biography) profiles Aretha Franklin.
  • Jack plays hardball on "30 Rock" (7:30 p.m., NBC).
  • Darryl negotiates with Michael on "The Office" (8 p.m., NBC).
  • A limousine killing is linked to an earlier case on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • Under suspicion on "Burn Notice" (9 p.m., USA).
  • A burst of publicity brings Don to the attention of a figure from his past on "Mad Men" (9 p.m., AMC)
  • The Kooks, Wynton Marsalis and Muse appear on "Live From Abbey Road" (9 p.m., Sundance).

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