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Archive for Monday, December 19, 2011

Eames: the chair that made the world modern

December 19, 2011

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Even if you’ve never heard of Charles and Ray Eames, you’ve likely sat on an Eames-style chair and been influenced by their works. “American Masters: Charles & Ray Eames, The Architect and the Painter” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) celebrates the nearly 40-year collaboration of the husband-and-wife team.

The Eameses made modern design accessible to millions of consumers and created influential films, museum exhibits and marketing installations for the U.S. government and major corporations from the 1940s until Charles’ death in 1978.

The Eames chair, their best-known work, revolutionized the notion of furniture. It ushered an audaciously modern “potato chip” shape into ordinary homes, church basements and airports. It also showed designers and manufacturers how new and seemingly mundane materials such as molded plywood, bent wire and aluminum could result in objects that became both commonplace and highly collectible and straddle the line between utility and art.

This “Masters” also offers a fascinating glance at the nature of artistic collaboration, both between a husband and a wife and between the two famous studio owners and their staff, many of whom thought they worked in obscurity to contribute to the Eameses’ allure. The same could be said of people who have worked for men named Walt Disney and Steve Jobs.

If you’re interested in the creative process, don’t dare miss “Eames.” It’s an all-too-rare television offering about people who cared more about ideas than money.

l With the holidays upon us, NBC offers the weeklong trivia game distraction “Who’s Still Standing?” (7 p.m.). A contestant stands in the middle of a circle of 10 challengers. He or she must compete in a lightning round of trivia questions with each challenger. Knock off all 10, and win a million dollars.

The visual hook to the game consists of trapdoors below every player. When a contestant loses, the door opens, dropping the player into a plastic chute and out of sight. Ben Bailey (“Cash Cab”) presides over this combination of covetousness and cruelty with a certain macho detachment.

Tonight’s other highlights

• An obese bear cracks wise in the 2010 cartoon “Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special” (7 p.m., ABC).

• The colony hunkers down to survive on the two-hour season finale of “Terra Nova” (7 p.m., Fox).

• Rodents with squeaky voices perform on “A Chipmunk Christmas” (7:30 p.m., ABC).

• Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson and Florence and The Machine are among the performers on “VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul” (8 p.m., VH1).

• A hit-and-run accident on “The Closer” (8 p.m., TNT).

• “The Layover” (8 p.m., Travel) explores Hong Kong.

• A New York cop wants revenge on “Hawaii Five-O” (9 p.m., CBS).

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