Archive for Tuesday, April 3, 2012

PBS examines Grand Coulee Dam

April 3, 2012

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History is never really water under the bridge. Or over the dam. “American Experience: Grand Coulee Dam” (7 p.m., PBS) recalls 80-year-old conflicts and controversies that seem contemporary. What is the government’s role in stimulating the economy? What right does Washington, D.C., have to condemn and seize millions of acres, thousands of miles from the capital, for a project that many in private industry decried as a boondoggle? And how do you balance economic progress with environmental degradation?

Back in 1933, the Roosevelt administration saw the massive public works project in Washington state as a way to employ thousands, tame the flood-prone Columbia River and provide electricity for millions.

The dam would succeed in all of these goals, but at a tremendous cost to the environment, to Native American tribes and to those who made their living from salmon fishing.

Finished in 1940, the dam’s dynamos powered airplane factories and shipyards vital to the war effort. Unbeknownst to the public at the time, the dam also powered a secret effort that would come to be known as the Manhattan Project.

‘‘Grand Coulee Dam” offers viewers a glimpse of how messy history can seem while it is being made. It recalls the popular celebration of the project in its time, most notably Woody Guthrie’s anthem “Roll On, Columbia,” and takes a long view of a massive undertaking, both its lofty goals and unintended consequences.

• Gen. Wesley Clark hosts “Edge of War” (9 p.m., Military), offering a minute-by-minute look at major military decisions.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Jimmy’s change in status on “Raising Hope” (7 p.m., Fox).

• Results and elimination on “The Voice” (8 p.m., NBC).

• CeCe’s secret irks Jess on “New Girl” (8 p.m., Fox).

• Results on “Dancing With the Stars” (8 p.m., ABC).

• The great department-store challenge on “Fashion Star” (9 p.m., NBC).

• The virus spreads on “Body of Proof” (9 p.m., ABC).

• Quayles evades Raylon on “Justified” (9 p.m., FX).

Cult choice

Some considered Jeffrey Hunter too dreamy-looking to carry the title role in the 1961 adaptation of “King of Kings” (9 p.m., TBN). Wags dubbed the movie “I Was a Teenage Jesus.”

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