Picks and Pans Review: Great Performances: Asinamali

updated 12/14/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/14/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

PBS(Fri., Dec. 11,9 p.m. ET)

TV has done well with one great humanitarian issue of the '80s: AIDS. In news shows, TV has tried to inform us, and in movies it has tried to humanize the facts. Now TV is starting to do likewise with another great issue: apartheid. Last September HBO gave us Mandela, a movie that overcame its flaws with the power of its message. Last week on CBS, Walter Cronkite presented Children of Apartheid, the best show on the subject I've seen yet. On it we heard from the daughter of South African President P.W. Botha—a very sheltered SAP (South African Princess)—and from the daughter of imprisoned black leader Nelson Mandela, as well as from other children on both sides of this terrible struggle. The show arrived too late for review but, for the record, it deserves a grade of A—. This week brings two more apartheid shows, neither great. Frontline presents a British documentary on the history of apartheid—complete and quite informative, but disorganized and sometimes draggy. Grade: B. And Great Performances presents Asinamali, a South African play about five black prisoners who talk of their suffering but dramatize little of it—another jumble. Grade: C+. But everybody gets an A for effort.

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