Tuesday, August 3, 2004
Historians and pop-culture experts who look back at our current era from some future vantage point will probably notice some peculiar, morbid obsessions. The popularity of forensic shows like "CSI" and "Crossing Jordan," the funeral-parlor comedy "Six Feet Under" and the grim-reaper humor of "Dead Like Me" have to reflect some greater overarching concerns. I'd venture to guess that with the baby boomer generation staring AARP membership square in the face, many have begun to ponder the Great Beyond.
Add the documentary "Family Undertaking" on "POV" (9 p.m., PBS) to this trend. Filmmaker Elizabeth Westrate offers an informative and often moving look at the home-funeral movement. You might call this the final frontier of the do-it-yourself phenomenon.
Home-funeral proponents argue that the modern funeral-home industry has robbed death of its dignity and has turned one of life's most intimate and important rituals into a sterile, institutionalized practice that leave mourners numb and bewildered. And considerably lighter in the wallet, to boot.
"Undertaking" also follows several dying individuals as they plan their own home funerals. An elderly South Dakota rancher adorns his homemade casket with cattle brands. A woman dying of breast cancer gives her husband clear instructions on her wishes. We later see both individuals laid out at their home funerals as their families grieve. As one expert contends, home funerals are not for everybody. To build a coffin, and wash and adorn the body of a loved one, is not easy. "You need a team," she says.
- A group of 13 rather self-possessed young men vie for the attention of a model from Miami named Dawn in the new reality series "The Player" (8 p.m., UPN).
Tonight's other highlights
- Two new families appear on "Trading Spouses" (7 p.m., Fox).
- Panting and globetrotting on "Amazing Race 5" (9 p.m., CBS).
- Marlee Matlin guest stars on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC).
- Terror alert on "NYPD 24/7" (9 p.m., ABC).
- The firm volunteers to treat a model left disfigured after a violent attack on "Nip/Tuck" (9 p.m., FX).
Chris Kentis appears on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Dennis Miller and Nicole Richie on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).
Natalie Portman, Mark Consuelos and Los Lobos chat on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... John Elway and Justine Bateman appear on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 p.m., CBS).