on the tube

By Dean Robbins


Cha-cha-cha changes


‘Latin Music USA’ traces a remarkable progression


After all the dreadful series that have premiered in the last month, it’s downright therapeutic to watch “Latin Music USA” (Monday, 8 p.m., PBS). Here, finally, is a well-made production, full of humor and drama. I was beginning to think the broadcast networks had forgotten how to entertain us.

The ambitious documentary shows how Latin music crossed into our borders; how it mutated into Afro-Cuban jazz, mambo, cha-cha-cha, salsa and Chicano rock; and how it affected the American experience of the past eight decades. The documentary reflects the elegance and excitement of Latin music in video clips, photographs and interviews. The filmmaking cha-cha-chas in perfect time with its soundtrack.

Episode one begins in the 1930s, when Cuban musicians discovered the vibrant Harlem jazz scene. Cuban players like Machito and Mario Bauza were turned on by jazz, and jazz players like Dizzy Gillespie were turned on by Latin sounds.

It’s impossible to sit still while watching “Latin Music USA,” and that makes life difficult for a TV reviewer. Have you ever tried to take notes while dancing the mambo? CV

‘Extreme Makeover Home Edition’
Sunday, 6 p.m. (ABC)


This week’s episode helps out Connecticut’s insanely deserving Hill family, who’ve devoted their lives to helping others. Mom and Dad took in seven nieces and nephews who’d been living in a homeless shelter, bringing the number of kids in their tiny, crumbling home to 11. Their own children cheerfully accepted the new family members, even though it meant sleeping on the floor and the couches to make room for them. One girl is glad to donate a kidney to an ailing cousin.

It’s a good thing the Home Makeover team demolished the Hills’ rat’s-nest house and built them a mini-mansion, because I was about to drive to Connecticut to do it myself.

For viewers, this edition of “Extreme Makeover” will require Extreme Kleenex. CV


‘The Girls Next Door’
Sunday, 9 p.m. (E!)

The reality series about Hugh Hefner’s octogenarian love life features three new Playmate girlfriends. But don’t worry about a break in continuity. The girlfriends from the past five seasons were interchangeable young blonde airhead exhibitionists with the same artificially curvy bodies.

Since Hefner will obviously never die (or perhaps he already has, and was replaced by an animatronic double), we can look forward to uninterrupted editions of “The Girls Next Door” for the next few hundred years. CV


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