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Archive for Friday, February 24, 2012

Musicals, Marines and fishing boats

February 24, 2012

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While fans of “Smash” wait for that drama to coalesce around its make-believe musical, “Great Performances” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) offers viewers the real thing: a presentation of “Memphis,” the 2010 Tony winner for Best Musical.

With music and lyrics by David Bryan, “Memphis” recalls the pre-Elvis scene of that city in the 1950s, when white listeners (personified here as a charismatic and curious disc jockey) began to appreciate and popularize the rhythm and blues heard in black clubs and honky-tonks. Through song and dance, “Memphis” explores themes of integration and social change, as well as the well-founded fears among black performers that their music and culture were being appropriated and watered down for a broader white audience.

• The 2011 documentary “Semper Fi: Always Faithful” (9 p.m., MSNBC) recalls how a personal tragedy shattered a Marine’s life before inspiring him to undertake a crusade.

Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, a Marine drill instructor for nearly a quarter century, saw his life fall apart when his 9-year-old daughter developed a rare form of leukemia and died. After years of grief, Ensminger began to search for explanations and discovered that the Marine Corps base where his family lived was on the site of one of the largest incidents of water contamination in U.S. history.

For nearly 30 years, the water at Camp LeJeune, N.C., was contaminated by toxic chemicals, sometimes at more than 280 times the legal limit. Ensminger not only unveiled a likely cause for his daughter’s illness but also exposed that upward of a million Marine recruits had been drinking poisoned water.

• A cable tough-guy show comes to network TV on “Undercover Boss” (7 p.m., CBS) as the CEO of American Seafoods poses as a deckhand on a vessel working off Alaska.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Actor Blair Underwood (“L.A. Law,” ‘‘The Event”) traces his family tree on “Who Do You Think You Are?” (7 p.m., NBC).

• Less is more in Baltimore on “Kitchen Nightmares” (7 p.m., Fox).

• A fight club for the fairy-tale set on “Grimm” (8 p.m., NBC).

• Peter and the Fringe pull out the stops on “Fringe” (7 p.m., Fox).

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