Peter Bogdanovich's vivid new documentary follows the career of Tom Petty, the uncompromising rocker who won't back down. And on PBS, a visit with the dour creator of that American comic-strip staple, 'Peanuts.'
Runnin' Down a Dream: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: (Sundance Channel, Oct. 29, 7 p.m.): This taut four-hour documentary by Peter Bogdanovich does more than trace the rise of a quintessential American band – though it does that well, blending high-energy concert footage with rare early-years material, album back stories, and interviews with rock luminaries. The film might easily have been called "I Won't Back Down." It's really an exposition of Petty's single-mindedness in facing down injustices – from childhood abuse to a case of arson to pickpocket record companies. In one scene, he angrily blunts an A&R man's bid to foist a pop song on friend – and formative influence – Roger McGuinn. And still he stays Tom Cool, natural hitmaker. "He's so easy," says George Harrison, a pal from his Traveling Wilburys stint. "He's not on a 'trip' of any kind." Grade: A
– Clayton Collins
Good Ol' Charles Schulz: (PBS Oct. 29, 9-10:30 p.m.): Great art is never easily explained. But the life – and particularly the loves – of the dour Minnesotan who created "Peanuts" offer valuable insight into his creative process. We meet the real red-haired girl who rejected the young Schulz and hear from friends and colleagues how his mother's premature death left him a man in search of love. In the end, says Schulz, the comic strip about a lonely, round-headed boy and the happiness that eludes him, was his therapy – one he shared with the world. Grade: A
– Gloria Goodale