Don't Lick His Queen

The Lactose-Intolerant Detective; Trio's Honky-Tonk Blues

Lost Highway takes us on a stellar tour of 100 years of country music with a riveting mix of anecdotes and vintage performance footage. Rather than approaching the genre chronologically, each episode follows a thematic thread. The format allows us to track ideas across the decades, although it means some crucial figures get left out altogether (George Jones, for instance). The first hour starts with the emergence of country music as we know it, as it was brought down from the mountains by the Carter family and mutated under the influence of new performers, technology, and the changing marketplace. The last hour zooms in on the "Sweethearts of the Rodeo," tracing the evolution of female performers—from the wholesome cowgirl image to the hillbilly feminism of Loretta Lynn (who claims she was surprised by all the fuss surrounding her 1960s song about the pill) to Gillian Welch, heralded as a blessed return to the intimate, elemental sound of mountain folks making music on their front porch.

One thing Lost Highway makes clear is that country music has been pining for purity almost as long as it has existed. One critic jokes that only a few years after Bill Monroe helped create the sound of bluegrass he had already become "chief of police of bluegrass authenticity." That struggle between nostalgia and commerce, olden times and modern days, recurs again and again in the series. Nashville quickly becomes a dead-soul factory, leeching the music's heart, and each successive generation finds a new way to kick country's ass and pick up new believers along the way.

An obsessive-compulsive old-school sleuth: Tony Shalhoub as Monk
photo: Annie Chia
An obsessive-compulsive old-school sleuth: Tony Shalhoub as Monk


Fridays at 10 p.m. on USA

Lost Highway: The History of American Country
Begins July 5 at 8 p.m. on Trio

Indian summer has come early this year. In a strange televisual coincidence, two cable networks have unleashed miniature Bollywood film festivals. TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is already at the end of its Indian cinema month, but a few 1950s classics remain: the black-and-white melodrama Mother India and Bimal Roy's neorealist Do Bigha Zamien will both be shown on June 26. In mid July, the Sundance Channel airs two more recent critically acclaimed extravaganzas, Agni Varsha and Gaja Gamini, accompanied by a documentary about four young Indo-Canadians who aspire to Bollywood stardom.

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