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On The Tube

Quiet guy with a loud guitar

10/30/2013

On the TubeHard to believe, but in the four decades since Jimi Hendrix died, no one has made a great documentary about him. “Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’ ” on “American Masters” fixes that problem (Tuesday, 8 p.m., PBS). It capably tells the story of Hendrix’s rise from impoverished Seattle youth to rock star to drug casualty — an extraordinary journey of just 27 years.

The film is a treasure trove of rare photos, previously unseen concert footage, intimate letters and revealing home movies. Hendrix’s friends and colleagues (including a star-struck Paul McCartney) describe a shy young man who utterly transformed when he walked onstage with an electric guitar. Indeed, it’s hard to connect the quiet Jimi in archival interviews with the strutting psychedelic god who slashes through “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady.” None of the commentators can adequately explain the power of his music, whose mix of the earthy and the ethereal still raises hairs on the back of your neck.

I can’t explain it either. Stop reading this review and just watch Hendrix in action on Tuesday night.

 

“Grimm”

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Friday, 8 p.m. (NBC)

I know a lot of people like this drama about a Portland detective who, as a descendent of the Brothers Grimm, fights ancient evil in the modern world. I want to like it myself, but as an infrequent viewer I struggle simply to understand what’s going on.

In this week’s episode, our hero, Nick (David Giuntoli), turns into an animal. Sort of. Then all his friends inexplicably begin calling him Thomas. Meanwhile, a medium with a thick accent makes a pretty blond woman perform weird rituals with a corpse. “You must become accustomed to zee smell of death!” she insists. Why this is true, I never figured out. I was too busy trying to decipher the bits of German dialogue.

By the end of the episode, I was more confused than when I started. But I admit I had become slightly more accustomed to zee smell of death.

 

“Civil War 360”

Sunday, 7 p.m. (Smithsonian Channel)

In each of its three parts, this documentary series offers a different point of view on the Civil War. Actress Ashley Judd tells us about the Union, actor Dennis Haysbert about the slaves and country singer Trace Adkins about the Confederacy. In this day and age, representing the Confederacy’s perspective is the tricky part. Adkins can’t go so far as to celebrate their cause without offending most of the national audience.

Believe it or not, he celebrates their cause. Adkins insists that the South merely “wanted to define freedom on its own terms,” without acknowledging that such “freedom” involved owning people. A single, sensible sentence about the evils of slavery would have gone a long way toward making the episode palatable.

As it is, we’ll have a bad taste in our mouths until Haysbert’s installment next week. CV

Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. See more of his work at www.thedailypage.com.

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