Democracy in action
History Channel's Miracle Rising: South Africa is a powerful look at what a nation undertook to transition from apartheid to democracy, overcoming four centuries of oppression and hate to elect Nelson Mandela to power in 1994. Through interviews with family members of the murdered and disappeared, as well as celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Charlize Theron, and Angela Bassett, and firsthand testimony from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, this documentary puts courageous faces on the almost unbelievable brutality of the apartheid years. See it first on H2 Feb. 17, then on History Feb. 23.
Babar: The Movie, about the charming world of a royal family of elephants and their escapades as they conquer evil rhinos and restore sanity and harmony to their beloved kingdom, comes out on DVD Feb.12. The books are a must-read, but the 1989 film evokes the charm and grace of the original concept.
Babs is back
Contain yourselves – not only is Barbra Streisand going to perform at the Oscars for the first time in 36 years, but her groundbreaking 1976 crossover Sony Masterworks album, Classical Barbra, is coming out with all newly remastered tracks from the original session as well as two bonus songs. Ooh la-la! She helped invent the very notion of crossovers between the genres of classical and pop, but really, is it ever anything but Barbra?
Singing it home
A familiar old hand is back with a brand-new band whose tight harmonies stir memories of early Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and Loggins and Messina. That's hardly surprising since it's the ageless Kenny Loggins who has teamed up with veteran Nashville songsmiths Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman to form Blue Sky Riders. Nearly every shimmering cut on Finally Home sounds like a radio hit – no surprise with a joint résumé like theirs – and it's a treat to hear a revitalized Loggins soar with two other strong voices.
Free online classes
Bill Gates called KhanAcademy.org "unbelievable." The online trove of more than 3,800 educational how-tos became an app in 2012. Smart-phone users can browse 10- to 15-minute videos showing creator Salman Khan and others explaining subjects such as math, economics, humanities, and even test prep for the SAT and GRE. Big news stories sometimes get their own explainer video, too.
Lincoln's last day
Abraham Lincoln is the talk of the town, and Killing Lincoln, on the National Geographic Channel, is a worthy addition to the cultural media frenzy over America's 16th president. Based on Bill O'Reilly's bestselling book and narrated by Tom Hanks, the film follows the course of events just before and after popular actor John Wilkes Booth assassinates the president and then escapes into the countryside. It airs Feb. 17 at 8 p.m.