MONDAY Millenium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World
(PBS, 9-11 p.m.): Does "civilization" have something to learn from tribal cultures? Can these cultures, in fact, impart the basic lessons of life? TV may be a medium virtually made for tackling anthropology, since it's able to mix talking heads with the kind of lively documentary footage usually missing from the classroom. Yet how can it deal with questions as deep and broad as these? The five-part weekly series beginning here responds to this challenge with a fascinating new device: It views themes like
marriage, religion, or wealth and poverty through the eyes of individuals from different cultures - a New York City garbageman or a young woman of Niger - letting each personal tale emerge from its distinct ethnic vantage point. While some of the programs are straight documentaries, many segments are dramatized, with a first-person narrative as voice-over. The makers of "Millenium" spent about 10 years on location in some 15 countries, finding common ground among varied peoples but also coming up with new answers to old problems. Harvard anthropologist David Maybury-Lewis, the series' knowledgeable host, takes each show's theme and traces it, by means of these stories, through separate lives. WEDNESDAY American Bandstand's 40th Anniversary (ABC, 9-11 p.m.): It's TV's oldest variety show and one of the most enduring fixtures in pop music, so this long look back is really a form of social history. Many stars take part, under the guidance of the program's original host, the almost eerily unchanging Dick Clark.
Please check local listings for all programs, especially those on PBS.