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Color Adjustment

Directed by Marlon T. Riggs
88 mins

Color Adjustment traces 40 years of race relations through the lens of primetime entertainment, scrutinizing television's racial myths and stereotypes. Narrated by Ruby Dee, the 88-minute documentary allows viewers to revisit some of television's most popular stars and shows, among them Amos and Andy, The Nat King Cole Show, I Spy, Julia, Good Times, Roots, Frank's Place, and The Cosby Show. But this time around, Riggs asks us to look at these familiar favorites in a new way. The result is a stunning examination of the interplay between America's racial consciousness and network primetime programming.

The story, told with wit, passion, and verve, shows how African Americans were allowed into America's primetime family only insofar as their presence didn't challenge the mythology of the American Dream central to television's merchandising function. It demonstrates how the networks managed to absorb divisive racial conflict into the familiar non-threatening formats of primetime television.

Clips from the shows that captivated, amused, and sometimes angered audiences are interwoven with the parallel story of the Civil Rights movement as brought into our living rooms on the evening news. Writers and producers —such as Hal Kanter (Julia), Norman Lear (All in the Family, Good Times, The Jeffersons), Steve Bochco (Hill Street Blues, LA Law), David Wolper (Roots), and others—take us behind the scenes of their creations. Esther Rolle, Diahann Carroll, Tim Reid, and other black performers ruminate upon the meaning and impact of the roles they themselves played in shaping primetime race relations. Cultural critics Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Herman Gray, Alvin Poussaint, and Pat Turner point out that while these television programs entertain, they also reinforce and legitimate a particular notion of the "American Family."

As engaging as it is perceptive, Color Adjustment sheds light on the racial implications of America's favorite addiction - television watching. It will help viewers reexamine America's and their own attitudes towards race.

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