Tubegazing: 'America at a Crossroads' and 'Jane Painkiller'

Sci-Fi's 'Jane Painkiller' follows a woman who can't be hurt but still feels the pain. PBS's 'America at a Crossroads' examines the war on terror's political and economic aspects.

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America at a Crossroads

(PBS, premières April 15-20, check local listings): This 11-part series of independently produced documentaries, culled from some 400 entries, examines the issues Americans face – at home and abroad – in a post-9/11 world. Filmmakers across the political spectrum turn a critical eye on everything from neoconservative justifications for war to the struggle to find a balance between freedom and security at home. Originally conceived as an antidote to a perceived "liberal bias" in PBS programming, producers struggled to give the series balance, hiring host Robert MacNeil to help in that effort. Taken as a whole, this assemblage provides a comprehensive, if disturbing, window into issues no American can afford to ignore. Grade: A

Painkiller Jane

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

(Sci-Fi Channel, April 13, 10 p.m.): DEA Agent Jane Vasco's humdrum job chasing everyday lowlifes turns surreal, not to mention really painful, once she is recruited by an ultrasecret agency (is there any other kind?) to battle "Neuros," elusive DNA mutants with mind-control powers. Along the way she's also acquired a mysterious power to self heal, so now she's indestructible (although she still feels pain). Moody and fast-paced, this is good, only minimally pretentious, sci-fi fun. Grade: B

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