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America in Primetime

America in Primetime

Sat May 4, 10.15-11.15pm, BBC2

By Adam Lee Davies
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Series one, episode three
The third episode of this sterling PBS documentary (gently repurposed by Alan Yentob) focuses on the shifting depictions of women on the jumping box. Charting a journey that arguably started with Lucille Ball’s huge popularity as an onscreen ditz (coupled with the kudos eventually gained from being the executive muscle behind shows like ‘Mission: Impossible’ and ‘Star Trek’), we are taken on a whistle-stop tour of landmark shows that mirrors the changing mood of society.

Taboo-busters ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ and ‘Murphy Brown’, starring Candice Bergen, are given their due, as is the mighty ‘Roseanne’, a magnificent show that – in this country at least – is in danger of being forgotten. The spots on more recent shows are, perhaps inevitably given their proximity, less interesting, and the decision to give three times as much coverage to the likes of ‘Nurse Jackie’ and ‘Weeds’ over – like it or loathe it – ‘Sex and the City’ is a little perverse.

Through it all, the talking heads remain stellar, with Roseanne Barr, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Edie Falco and Peggy from ‘Mad Men’ lending first-hand testimony to the clip-heavy format.
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