PBS delves into the lives of 'Country Boys'


Published: Sunday, January 8, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 10:15 p.m.
TV doesn't have much time for members of the struggling underclass, unless it's to mock them or wallow in their miseries.
''Country Boys'' most assuredly does neither, preferring to spend six hours profiling Cody Perkins and Chris Johnson, two teenage boys coming of age in Eastern Kentucky's Appalachian hills.
On three consecutive nights, this film portrait follows Cody and Chris from ages 15 to 18 as they struggle to overcome their obstacles - poverty, family dysfunction and self-doubt - in this forgotten corner of rural America.
Cody, an orphan, lives with his former step-grandmother (whose daughter was the fourth wife of Cody's seven-times-wed father). Chris lives in a run-down trailer with his mother, a high school dropout who cleans hotel rooms for a living, and his alcoholic father.
Filmed between 1999 and 2002 by David Sutherland (director of the epic documentary series ''The Farmer's Wife''), ''Country Boys'' begins as Chris and Cody enroll in the David School, an alternative high school for troubled teens.
Toward the end of the film, as graduation time nears, the lives of the two boys have taken different turns.
But in an early scene, the challenges weighing upon both of them are summed up by Chris when he tells a friend, ''My 100 percent is like 50 percent to most people.''
A co-production of ''Frontline,'' Independent Television Service and David Sutherland Productions, ''Country Boys'' airs Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 9 p.m. on PBS.
Other shows to look out for:
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    On this new romantic sitcom, relationship advice takes center stage for Emily, as she compiles her reasons why and why not to jump in. Of course, any reasonable woman keeps consultants close by. For Emily, they are Josh (Khary Payton), a gay chum who works at a healing teashop called Chi for Two, and Reilly (Nadia Dajani), a self-proclaimed nonconformist who is unattached and unemployed.
    Graham (''Scrubs,'' ''Boogie Nights'') brings spark and spunk to this new show, which, based on the novel of the same name, premieres 9 p.m. Monday on ABC.
  • ''NOVA scienceNOW'' rings in 2006 with a roundup of some of the past year's groundbreaking discoveries and advances in science.
    Among the topics covered on this edition of the quarterly PBS magazine: Is there really a 10th planet? Can you make embryonic stem cells without an embryo? Will there be a flu pandemic? Can you make meat in a lab? And does global warming cause more intense hurricanes?
    All that, plus exploding toads in Germany and studies on cell-phone use while driving (which slows a normal 30-year-old driver's reaction time to that of a 70- to 80-year-old).
    With the witty and knowledgeable Robert Krulwich as host, this hourlong program premieres 8 p.m. Tuesday.
  • If the riders are lucky, they stay mounted for eight seconds. If not, they bite the dust. This is no bull: Professional bull-riding is the fastest-growing professional sport in America, according to one study, with a fan base of 16 million.
    Now cable's TLC goes along for the ride on a yearlong pro tour, as rivals battle one another and their bovine combatants to win a million-dollar prize and a championship title.
    ''Beyond the Bull'' spotlights three riders as they compete, balancing their sport with families and careers while they master their own fears. The 10-part series premieres 9 p.m. Tuesday.
  • No one can be hustled unless they're greedy enough to deserve it. Or at least that's what the charming gang of five insists on ''Hustle,'' a slick, stylish 18-episode comedy-drama premiering 10 p.m. Saturday on AMC.
    Based in London, this professional family of con artists is led by Mickey ''Bricks'' Stone (Adrian Lester), while serving as his mentor is American emigre Albert Stroller (former ''Man from U.N.C.L.E.'' Robert Vaughn).
    Marc Warren, Robert Glenister and dishy Jaime Murray round out the crew, which stays busy devising intricate stings to swindle their morally corrupt ''marks.'' Don't cheat yourself out of this delightful new series.
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