'Biography' subject worthy of profile

At last, someone worthy of a "Biography" (7 p.m., A&E;). Like many viewers, I am tired of seeing this once-proud franchise fritter away its prestige with "Batman" retrospectives and life stories of professional wrestlers. Tonight, Danny Glover narrates an hourlong profile of writer James Baldwin, an important force in 20th century literature and race relations. Thank you "Biography" for acknowledging the fact that some of us actually read!

Baldwin would base his first novel, "Go Tell It On the Mountain," on his experience as a Harlem preacher. By the early 1950s, he was praised for taking black literature out of the ghetto and making the "Negro" experience accessible to a wider (and whiter) audience.

But Baldwin resisted easy categorization as a "black writer." His second, groundbreaking novel, "Giovanni's Room," about a homosexual love affair, has no black characters and takes place in Paris. Baldwin's essay collections, including "Notes of a Native Son" and "The Fire Next Time," were required reading during the civil rights era.

This intelligent "Biography" entry features archival footage and interviews with Baldwin (who died in 1987), poet Nikki Giovanni, novelist Toni Morrison, writer and actor Ossie Davis and members of Baldwin's family.

  • "Michael Jackson Take 2: The Footage You Weren't Meant to See" (7 p.m., Fox) presents outtakes and footage deleted from ABC's top-rated news special produced by journalist Martin Bashir. Jackson and his handlers believe that this special will show the King of Pop in a more favorable light.
  • The documentary "The War Behind Closed Doors" on "Frontline" (8 p.m., PBS) examines how the Bush administration moved from a policy of containment toward Iraq to one of pre-emptive war. The documentary also explores a long-running turf war between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

On a related note, Powell discusses Iraq, terrorism and the international scourge of AIDS before a town-hall meeting of high school students on "Open Mic" (7 p.m., BET). Ed Bradley ("60 Minutes") is host of this discussion.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Gender wars continue on "Survivor: The Amazon" (7 p.m., CBS).
  • The subject of a high-speed chase is found dead with a wooden stake through his head on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • Police question Pratt (Mekhi Phifer) and Gallant (Sharif Atkins) as murder suspects on "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).


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