"American Masters -- Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth" A lovely and lyrical tribute to the great American novelist, poet, essayist and activist airs just two days before she turns 70 and helps kick off Black History Month.
Obviously, it shouldn't require an African American-themed event to warrant a tribute to Walker, and "Beauty in Truth" reminds us how singular and extraordinary Walker's life and work remain.
Best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Color Purple," she is a woman who speaks softly, writes beautifully, draws strength from nature and refuses to follow conventions of any sort. Giving voice to black women at a time when they were often marginalized in both the feminist and civil rights movement, Walker has infuriated as many people as she has empowered, which is, of course, the mark of both a true artist and activist.
Made by Walker's friend and colleague Pratibha Parmar, "Beauty in Truth" follows this remarkable life from sharecropper childhood to American icon, aided by in-depth interviews with Walker and a range of luminaries including Howard Zinn, Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, Danny Glover and Sapphire.
Although more tribute than biography, "Beauty in Truth" offers an important reminder of how much America has changed in the course of this woman's lifetime, in part because of her efforts. PBS, Friday, 9 p.m.
"The Walking Dead." The Governor (David Morrissey) is dead (or is he?), baby Judith is dead (or is she?), Hershel (Scott Wilson) is dead (alas, that seems irrevocable) and the briefly thriving group of survivors are on the move again in a landscape we have been promised will more closely resemble the graphic novel on which the show is based than any previous season.
Other rumors include the return of a "major" character (we hope it's Melissa McBride's Carol, though perhaps she hasn't been gone long enough for her return to warrant a rumor), new "pets" for Michonne (Danai Gurira) and an increasing emphasis on Carl (Chandler Riggs).
Plagued by a built-in "ante issue" -- when zombies become commonplace, how do the writers continually up the ante? -- "The Walking Dead" needs to take a breath and allow its characters to do the same. But I wouldn't expect that to happen in the midseason premiere, or until we find out what happened to Judith. AMC, Sundays, 9 p.m.
"Transparent." Up for voting by the Prime subscribers, one of Amazon's first comedy pilots comes from "Six Feet Under" writer Jill Soloway and stars Jeffrey Tambor as Mort, the father of three grown children as he transitions from a man to a woman.
Firmly set in Los Angeles, "Transparent" follows a family already broken by divorce -- Judith Light is "Mom" -- and the narcissistic nature of the three children, played by Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass.
The pilot is, as many pilots are, a little anxious and over-thought, but there are far more moments of grace than contrivance, Tambor is amazing and, by gosh, it's good to see Los Angeles evoked by someone who actually knows it. Amazon Prime, whenever.
"House of Cards." Season 2 dumps on Netflix on Valentine's Day (what says "I love you" more than a dark 'n' treacherous binge-watch?). This gives you a week to catch up with Season 1 of Beau Willimon's remake of the British political drama (and/or the British original, also available on Netflix.)
Anchored by Kevin Spacey, making a five-course meal of his role as scheming House Whip Frank Underwood, and an icily luminous Robin Wright as his wife Claire, "House of Cards" was designed to plant the Netflixian flag on the high ground of the television landscape. Which it most certainly did.
Opening big with episodes directed by David Fincher, it faltered a bit in later episodes, but remains ambitious, entertaining and at times (we're talking about you, Ms. Wright) even breathtaking. Watch this space for thoughts on Season 2. Netflix, any old time you want.