October 25, 1999 12:00 PM

TLC (Thurs.-Fri., Oct. 21-22, 9 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

“The worst example of corporate irresponsibility that we’ve ever seen in the history of the world….Unscrupulous, unprincipled, immoral and illegal…. They’re evil—they are the definition of evil.” Critics heap condemnation on the tobacco industry in this potent three-hour documentary, a coproduction of TLC and BBC News. If the government’s recently filed suit against the cigarette makers ever goes to trial, the Justice Department should consider entering Tobacco Wars into the record.

Not that the program, narrated by Walter Cronkite, is totally one-sided. Big Tobacco’s defenders get a chance to voice the smoking-is-a-free-choice argument. But it sounds weak surrounded by evidence that the industry placed profit above the public health. The only problem with the documentary is its occasional use of dramatization and scary music. The interviews and archival material (including cigarette endorsements by celebrities like the late Steve McQueen) can stand on their own.

Bottom Line: Cuts through the smoke

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