Ken Tucker on Spike Lee's powerful Hurricane Katrina documentary
1. Spike Lee in When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts
(HBO, Aug. 21 and 22, with numerous reruns)
He's there not just as a director, but also as an off-camera voice, asking quick follow-up questions to New Orleans residents who survived Hurricane Katrina. While there is nothing in Lee's voice that suggests the fervent anger that fuels this magnificent, heartbreaking documentary about the human causes of the Katrina tragedy, Lee's urgent questions and there aren't many, spread over four hours, but they're key fully convey the sympathy, rage, disbelief, and shock that registers anew, over and over, as you listen to how these Americans respond to him, his voice, and his cameras.
2. The Temptations, ''Ball of Confusion''
As heard on commercials for HBO's The Wire
No narrator speaks, telling you to watch the new season starting Sept. 10 I mean, if you're stupid enough to subscribe to HBO and not watch The Wire, what hope is there for you? but instead, there's a montage of tantalizing scenes, with characters familiar and new, more black faces than you've ever seen in any other TV series, more excitement, more humor and passion, more chaos. No wonder the only song that could convey all this is the Temptations' 1970 Norman Whitfield-produced hit, one of the rare songs of the psychedelic era that used the notion of a ''bad trip'' to convey a world of exhilarating pain. Just like…The Wire.
As in an issue-a-week, for 52 consecutive weeks, part of DC Comics' realignment of its superhero universe. If you're not a comics fan, should you care? Yes: Normally, I have an aversion to big, multicharacter projects like this, and I barely know Black Adam from Animal Man (well, I do, but I'm trying to convince you of the accessibility here). However, writers Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid have come up with plots about transformation, betrayal, love, and commitment that are enhanced by the myth-making superpowered characters. Now 16 weeks in, this is as addictive as any good TV series, any good mystery-novel series, any good comic-book series.
4. Slayer, ''Flesh Storm'' on Christ Illusion
Usually don't have much use for this kind of thrash-metal I need more rhythm, more sensuousness, in my music, and my inner-adolescent rage gets channeled elsewhere but the leadoff cut here, ''Flesh Storm,'' is a superfine antiwar, anti-news-media anthem.
5. Conan O'Brien hosting The Emmy Awards
(NBC, Aug. 27)
Come on, you know Conan is going to be terrific, and you can finally get excited about someone winning an Emmy award, because both Jean Smart and Gregory Itzin, the First Lady and the President from 24, are nominated and they will win, won't they?