Picks and Pans Review: 20/20: Try to Make a Miracle
ABC (Wednesday, April 24, 10 p.m. ET)
Get out your checkbooks. You can't watch this show and not want to do something, any little thing, to help feed Ethiopia. This isn't another one of those starvation specials designed just to horrify you with pictures of hungry babies—though it starts that way. This special has a different story to tell, one that mixes a little bit of hope with all the despair. It tells you about 926,000 New York City schoolchildren who, in less than a month, raised $150,000 to fill a jet with grain and send it to Ethiopia. ABC crews followed the kids as they collected coins in class and put on shows to raise money; the show listened to slum kids from Manhattan's Lower East Side. "We may be hungry sometimes," says 13-year-old Tony Baez, "but we ain't starving to death." Get your handkerchiefs out, too. Tom Jarriel follows the kids' shipment to Ethiopia, where he reports on the situation in camps and villages. TV too often feeds on pictures of anguish. When someone is murdered in a city, local news shows have no shame about sticking their cameras into the faces of loved ones to capture their tears for the six o'clock news. There seems, at first, to be a touch of that intrusion here. Jarriel comes upon a crying woman alone on the road with all her possessions, but no family and no food. You watch her stand there as he talks about her. Then you watch her walk away. "We had no food to give the woman," Jarriel says. That is intrusive, but it also conveys some of the truth and tragedy of Ethiopia: People are being turned away. Jarriel shows the kids' food arriving—35 tons of grain, enough to feed 3,000 people for a month; he shows people being fed; he shows kids for whom it is too late, one girl dying on camera; he shows kids who are healthy now, no longer hungry. The show doesn't act as if this one shipment can solve the problem. There is no effort to investigate what should have been done by the rich nations of the world to prevent this tragedy, or what we should be doing elsewhere. All 20/20 tries to do is show the need and how even a slum kid's 50-cent allowance can help. And as you see the kids watching a videotape of Jarriel's journey to Africa, you also see how good sharing can feel. That's the moral of the show: If New York City kids, many of them poor, can help, so can you. It is a moving hour.
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