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PBS Drama Episode Centers on Evils of Communism By: S. T. Karnick
The American Culture | Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The government-owned U.S. TV network PBS tends to soft-pedal the evils of communism while placing every imperfection of life in the United States under a microscope. Hence it's rather noteworthy when that organization airs a program in which the central problems are traceable to communism. That's what happened in last Sunday's episode of Masterpiece Mystery, which PBS coproduces with the privately owned UK media company ITV.

[Mild plot spoiler warning--'mild' because it won't fully identify the murderer.]

In "Music to Die For," the latest episode of the smart and interesting British mystery series Inspector Lewis, the killer turns out to have been an informer for the East German secret police, the Stasi, two decades earlier, who is trying to keep that past hidden.

Moreover, that is not merely an incidental aspect of the episode but in fact central to it. The evils of the Communist system, including the scarcity of material goods, the dreariness of life without hope of personal advancement and opportunities to use one's talents to their fullest, and, in particular, the paranoia and personal corruption induced by the police-state government's cultivation of a huge network of informers to identify alleged subversives are made quite clear and in fact set in motion the plot element that drives the entire story forward.

In addition to all of that, the episode, like the show in general, is intelligent, sophisticated, and morally sound, and it has an excellent plot and story line and strong central and supporting characters alike. Mixing Wagner, boxing, politics, boating, murder, and a police investigation, "Music to Die For" is entertaining while informing viewers about a subject not sufficiently often considered on U.S. television.

Inspector Lewis continues on Sunday nights through October 19, and is well worth watching.

It won't make up for years of political bias, of course, but it's a start.

S. T. Karnick is editor of the American Culture website.

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