Robin Roberts hosts “In Memoriam: 2018” (9 p.m., ABC). This Disneyfied take on “news” presents celebrity tributes to newsmakers we’ve lost over the past year.
Look for Loni Anderson to recall Burt Reynolds and the days when they were the couple that sold a billion supermarket tabloids. Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Kelly Clarkson and Smokey Robinson pay honor to Aretha Franklin. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman mourn their lost colleague John McCain, and Condoleezza Rice recalls President George H.W. Bush as well as first lady Barbara Bush.
For reasons that defy logic, two entertainers, Hank Azaria and Benedict Cumberbatch, have been called upon to remember physicist Stephen Hawking.
Unmentioned by network press materials is chef, author, television host and producer Anthony Bourdain. In addition to his series on Travel and CNN, he was a star and executive producer of the ABC show “The Taste” from 2013-15.
- “Independent Lens” (9 p.m., PBS, TV-14) presents “Man on Fire,” a provocative documentary that explores racism, small-town life, political activism, zealotry, depression and suicide in a succinct hour.
In 2014, Charles Moore, an elderly preacher known for his political advocacy, set himself on fire outside of a dollar store in a dusty, small Texas town called Grand Saline. His action, long in the planning, left his family and friends staggered, and traumatized neighbors and witnesses. He left a testament stating that he was protesting endemic racism, but few understood his gruesome gesture.
The film’s focus moves on to the town itself. At first, it is presented as a Mayberrylike place of close relations and long traditions, like the local store where the cowboy hats of deceased neighbors are put on display as a kind of folksy memorial.
Then we visit with black residents of nearby towns, who recall harrowing tales of being warned never to stay past sundown in Grand Saline, a place with a history, or at least a legend, of lynchings.
Residents, old and young, debate the town’s long reputation for bias. Teens insist it lingers. Elder residents declare it a thing of the past, kept alive only by those invested in stirring up trouble.
Which brings us back to the minister and his fatal act. The film concludes with a conversation with a black minister who visited Grand Saline and was met with hugs and tears. Did that mean Moore’s suicide was futile? Or was this reconciliation an outgrowth of his desperation?
If your PBS affiliate does not broadcast “Man on Fire,” you can stream the film, beginning tomorrow at pbs.org/independentlens.