Culture Shock

PBS, Jan. 26 and Feb. 2, 9 p.m. ET

Public TV too often likes its art tame and respectable, but this documentary mini-series--which examines Edouard Manet's Olympia, Huckleberry Finn, 1920s jazz and racy 1930s movies--recovers what was shocking in art we have (mostly) grown comfortable with. The enlightening Manet episode unpacks 19th century French society to show how a nude courtesan roiled the salons by staring frankly at the viewer; the Finn segment examines a contemporary push to pull the book (charged with racism) from a school. The series comes down on the side of art, natch, but deserves credit for arguing, not assuming, its point.

--J.P.

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