PBS (Jan. 24, check local listings)
This is a sort of return engagement for Oprah Winfrey and scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. She was one of the black celebrities profiled—right down to their DNA—last year on his PBS special African American Lives. Roots is a more general, hour-long history focusing on just Oprah, expanding on her participation in the first special. Working with genealogists, Gates threads small paths back across the landscape of black American history, where so many names have been lost, and finds Oprah‘s distant ancestors. We learn that both her great-grandmother and great-great-grandfather shared her enthusiasm for opening schools. “This unlocks a door for me,” she tells Gates.
As always, Winfrey manages to articulate her moral lessons with a personal directness that’s altogether unique in television.