Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Spencer Quinn's new dog mystery, 'Coco Before Chanel' out on DVD, a celebration of music from the civil rights movement on PBS, and more.

Lloyd Handwerker/Hush Studios, Inc.
'Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City,' a 90-minute PBS documentary, airs Feb. 8 at 10 p.m.
Unimedia International/Newscom
'Coco Before Chanel' is now available on DVD.
Spencer Quinn’s new mystery, 'Thereby Hangs a Tail' is the latest in the canine detective series.

A post-car future

"Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City," a 90-minute PBS documentary on Feb. 8 at 10 p.m., takes the provocative position that the symbol of American industrial decline – the auto industry – could be the crucible of 21st-century transportation reform. The team examines the vast engineering and design resources still alive in the Motor City and takes the viewer on a journey across a devastated urban landscape into a hopeful scenario in which clean, energy-efficient public transportation systems revitalize a city. The hope: to create a blueprint for the rest of the country – even the world – to follow.

What would you do?

"Survivors," the 2008 remake of the 1970s British TV cult classic debuts on BBC America Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. The updated series, which garnered a quarter of the British TV audience when it debuted, is an extremely graphic, post-apocalyptic drama, examining the options facing a tiny remnant of humanity after a supervirus wipes out nearly the entire global population. While the material hews closely to horrifying scientific scenarios, it is sufficiently well done to also pose the important questions: What would you do, why, and perhaps most compellingly, how?

Murder, he barked

The most winning detective duo since Shaggy met Scooby returns in Spencer Quinn's new mystery, "Thereby Hangs a Tail." Finances ever shaky, Chet and his human, Bernie, take a job guarding a pampered show dog. What seems like a rich woman's paranoia turns serious when Princess and her owner are kidnapped. Quinn mixes suspense and humor as Chet tries to puzzle out humans' odd ways. (Bear claws? Why would anyone eat those? Have humans not seen the Discovery Channel? And don't get him started on red herrings or crocodile tears.) But if idioms elude Chet, the same cannot be said for bad guys.

Lily the bear – at home

A group of scientists have deftly installed a webcam in the den of Lily, a black bear in the Minnesota woods that recently gave birth. To watch her, go to

Civil rights celebration

"In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement," a PBS special, will air on Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. Hosted by the Obamas, the event will include, among others, Natalie Cole, Bob Dylan, Queen Latifah, Smokey Robinson, and Seal.

A designing spirit

If you've ever worn Chanel – or wanted to – you may be interested to know that Gabrielle (later Coco) Chanel was not born into luxury. This is the comforting big news behind "Coco Before Chanel," a better-than-average biopic (out on DVD Feb. 16) starring Audrey Tautou as the daunting French designer who changed the face of 20th-century fashion.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.