PBS' 'Wide Angle' turns lens on China's legal revolution
Published: Sunday, July 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 30, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
It's a different kind of People's Court than viewers may remember when Judge Wapner was presiding.
This is China, where, as business booms and capitalism takes firm root, a new form of jurisprudence rushes to keep pace.
Marking the return of "Wide Angle'' for its sixth season of documentaries about global affairs, "The People's Court'' takes viewers inside Chinese courtrooms and law schools for a portrait of the country's legal revolution.
"The more the economy grows, the more we see problems that need legal action,'' a judge says. Employee disputes, traffic accidents, divorce petitions, migrant labor conflicts - they all were among the 8 million cases jamming Chinese courts last year.
In the past quarter-century, the country has opened nearly 400 law schools, trained hundreds of thousands of judges and lawyers, and launched education campaigns to encourage people to bring their grievances to court rather than taking to the streets.
Even so, more than 99 percent of criminal cases end in convictions, and China executes more prisoners every year than the rest of the world combined. Profiling itinerant judges, law students, a human-rights lawyer and ordinary citizens, "The People's Court'' raises a fundamental question about Chinese law: Is it possible to get a fair trial?
With Daljit Dhaliwal back as host, "Wide Angle'' airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. on PBS.
Other shows to look out for:
* What's it gonna be this July 4th? Washington or New York? Start off Wednesday night with "A Capitol Fourth,'' a musical extravaganza aired live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and climaxed with fireworks over the Washington Monument.
This year's host is Tony Danza, with guests including recording artist Elliott Yamin ("American Idol''), actress-singer Bebe Neuwirth, gospel performer Yolanda Adams, country music star Dierks Bentley, rock 'n' roll king Little Richard and Hayden Panettiere, the Cheerleader from NBC's "Heroes,'' with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Erich Kunzel.
Marking its 27th year, "A Capitol Fourth'' airs at 8 p.m. on PBS.
* A bit to the north, the sky will light up over New York City for "Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular'' on NBC at 9 p.m.
Hosted by "Today'' correspondents Natalie Morales and Tiki Barber, the hour-long live broadcast will include performances by Martina McBride, "American Idol'' winner Jordin Sparks, and "American Idol'' finalists Blake Lewis and Melinda Doolittle.
And don't forget the fireworks display (billed as the nation's largest), featuring some 35,000 pyrotechnic shells exploding over the city, set to a medley performed by the New York Pops.
* The time traveler known simply as The Doctor returns to your present-day TV for Sci Fi channel's third season of "Doctor Who.'' Full of new laughs, thrills and terrifying monsters, this new cycle finds the Doctor entering the life of Martha Jones, and changing it forever as, together, they zip through time and space.
In Elizabethan London, they will meet William Shakespeare. In New York circa 1930 they come face to face with the Doctor's sworn enemies, the Daleks.
The adventures start Friday at 8 p.m. with a special, "The Runaway Bride,'' when the Doctor meets a mysterious woman in a wedding gown. Then at 9:30 p.m., medical student Martha Jones is startled to find her entire hospital transported to the moon, where fearsome beasts (and the Doctor) await.
David Tennant and Freema Agyeman star.
* Did you ever wonder: What if dinosaurs hadn't died out? "DinoSapien'' is a new scripted kids' series that imagines a modern world where dinosaurs cohabit with humans ... say, a human like Lauren, who befriends a highly evolved dinosaur she christens Eno.
Unfortunately, a pack of dangerous dinosaurs are on the prowl for Eno, as is paleontologist Dr. Clive Aikens (James Coombes), who wants to capture Eno for his own sinister purposes.
Meanwhile, Lauren (Brittney Wilson) is determined to find her father, a paleontologist who vanished suspiciously while on a fossil-hunting expedition.
"DinoSapien'' premieres at 1 p.m. Saturday on Discovery Kids Channel.
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