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Archive for Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tune in: Will A&E’s ‘Peacemaker’ make a difference?

December 16, 2010

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The recent hubbub over WikiLeaks has sparked a debate over the nature of diplomacy. Can peace be arrived at in secret negotiations? Or should it be pursued in the light of day?

The new series “The Peacemaker: L.A. Gang Wars” (9 p.m., A&E) makes a case for the second option. Produced by Ice-T, who also performs the theme song, “Peacemaker” follows the work of gang mediator Malik Spellman as he tries to open dialogue between violent gangs.

In the first installment, he meets with members of two gangs, the Playboy Gangster Crips and the Mansfield Crips after the murder of a pregnant woman in Mansfield territory. The fact that she was carrying the unborn child of a Playboy Crip makes Spellman fear that a new war may be in the offing.

Made with the best of intentions, “Peacemaker” is a tad short on depth and detail. We never learn about the origins or motivations of the rival organizations. Just what illicit businesses or territories do they control or fear losing? We’ve come to expect a little background from years of watching “The Godfather.” Here, the warring Crips seem more Shakespearean. They are presented as ancient rivals, as rooted in their enmity as the Montagues and the Capulets.

If “Peacemaker” proves anything, it’s that people behave very differently with TV crews around. What are these men really going to do? Shoot each other on camera? Attack Malik, the star of the show? That would be as counterproductive as a star of “Undercover Boss” behaving like a bully in front of his employees.

Essentially, “Peacemaker” proves only that everything reality television touches turns into reality television — with all the unreality that entails.

• Television history and legend has it that back in 1965, CBS executives were skittish about the religious content of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (7 p.m., ABC). But I have to think some network suits might have also had second thoughts about its scenes of unrelenting childhood cruelty, its relatively sophisticated jazz score, dark mood and children spouting adult patter about Beethoven, psychotherapy and Christmas being a “racket” controlled by a big Eastern syndicate. And the “star”? He’s a bald, shunned, depressed boy who can’t even command respect from his dog.

Of course, the nay-sayers were wrong, and audiences embraced “Christmas” and have done so for 45 years.

Tonight’s other highlights

• A musical prodigy plays no more on “Bones” (7 p.m., Fox). A second repeat (9 p.m.) features guest stars Zooey Deschanel and Ryan O’Neal.

• Liz impresses a cranky editor (Paul Giamatti) on “30 Rock” (7:30 p.m., NBC).

• Langston struggles to survive on “CSI” (8 p.m., CBS).

• On three episodes of “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC), nepotism (8 p.m.), Toby counsels (9 p.m.), local theater (9:30 p.m.).

• Staff reductions on “Outsourced” (8:30 p.m., NBC).

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