Television: Viewpoint: Middlebrow Mandingo

Roots, Alex Haley's bestselling whatzit (not quite a novel, it is not quite history either) has come to television. Its unprecedented twelve-hour, eight-nights-in-a-row run begins on ABC Sunday, Jan. 23. It turns out to be a work of some historical interest, though surely not in the way its creators intended.

The first four hours, which bring Kunta Kinte, Haley's own great-great-great-great-great-grandfather from a happy childhood in an African village to a flogging in the slave quarters of a Virginia plantation, offer almost no new insights, factual or emotional, about the most terrible days...

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