'Lost Tapes: Patty Hearst' is a must for history buffs

Posted 11/24/17

By Kevin McDonough

Oxygen introduces a second season of "Homicide for the Holidays" (6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, TV-14). The first episode, "Thanks-Killing," examines the murder of a couple just before the holidays. Police can't determine if it's …

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'Lost Tapes: Patty Hearst' is a must for history buffs


By Kevin McDonough

Oxygen introduces a second season of "Homicide for the Holidays" (6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, TV-14). The first episode, "Thanks-Killing," examines the murder of a couple just before the holidays. Police can't determine if it's a robbery gone wrong, or the intentional act of someone near and dear.

Over the next four Saturdays, "Homicide" will examine: a house fire set to cover up a gruesome Christmastime execution (Dec. 2); a Christmas Eve double homicide (Dec. 9); a New Year's double homicide (Dec. 16) and a Yuletide family massacre (Dec. 23).

You just can't spell homicide without ho-ho-ho!

• History buffs and media junkies should not miss "The Lost Tapes: Patty Hearst" (9 p.m. Sunday, Smithsonian). This is the latest in "The Lost Tapes" series, which examines major historical events without voiceover narration or "talking head" experts explaining what happened or placing events in context.

Instead, the series treats events as breaking news, presenting radio and television reports in chronological order. Some haven't been seen or heard in decades.

The Hearst kidnapping took place on Feb. 4, 1974, a year after the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, a time when much of the domestic antiwar tumult seemed to be subsiding. The No. 1 song on the charts was "The Way We Were" by Barbra Streisand. Hardly an anthem of revolt, it evoked a pop culture already drifting into nostalgia.

News that an heiress had been kidnapped by an unknown group called the Symbionese Liberation Army (or SLA) seemed like a reminder of more turbulent times. The SLA's strident revolutionary rhetoric was also a jarring throwback, almost hard to believe or take seriously, particularly outside the confines of Berkeley, California.

"The Lost Tapes" shows how this kidnapping and crime saga played out on television and in American living rooms. To use a phrase of the era, it reflected "the generation gap" at its most painful. It involved straight-laced parents and their wayward child. Although heir to a media giant, Randolph Hearst seemed ill-suited to the crisis. His wife, Catherine, was often seen silently by his side, sporting an elaborate hairdo that would not be out of place on a "King Family Show" Christmas special.

The show plays a series of tape recordings of Patty Hearst that was released by the SLA. Americans could hear the 19-year-old college student's voice and tone change with every successive message. She devolved from the detached voice of a bored youth to that of an impatient daughter to finally that of a woman assuming the role of a violent revolutionary.

"The Lost Tapes" presents the shocking images of Hearst toting a machine gun and calling herself "Tania"; there's the blurry still of her participating in a bank robbery as well as the live coast-to-coast television coverage of the Los Angeles police firefight with the SLA that left the group's headquarters a charred ruin filled with dead bodies.

The episode also follows Hearst's 1975 capture and subsequent trial, and the process by which Tania became Patty again — or tried to, arguing in her court testimony that she had been kidnapped, coerced and brainwashed into cooperating with her captors.

Few true-life tales are as weird or as resonant as the Hearst kidnapping saga, and "The Lost Tapes" lets it unfold as it happened — grainy footage, strange hairdos, Ford Mavericks and all.

• Can it really be two decades since "Titanic" ruled the box office? It doesn't seem that long ago since my supermarket stopped playing "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion. But I could be wrong.

"Titanic: 20 Years Later With James Cameron" (9 p.m. Sunday, National Geographic) looks back at the film as well as the discovery of the actual shipwreck some years before and the revolutionary advances in underwater photography and digital filmmaking reflected in the 1997 movie as well as subsequent efforts like Cameron's "Avatar."

The director will also discuss the 1912 Titanic catastrophe as real history, interviewing descendants of John Jacob Astor, Molly Brown, and Isidor and Ida Straus, bringing renewed awareness to the generations of families affected by the loss of the Titanic.

• James Cameron will also appear on "StarTalk With Neil deGrasse Tyson" (11 p.m. Sunday, National Geographic).


• The voices of Ben Stiller and Jim Belushi contribute to the 2002 special "Robbie the Reindeer in Hooves of Fire" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-G), followed by the 2003 sequel "Robbie the Reindeer in Legend of the Lost Tribe" (8:30 p.m., TV-G), featuring the voices of Hugh Grant, Britney Spears, Leah Remini and Jerry Stiller.

• Ed Asner narrates the 1996 special "The Story of Santa Claus" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-G).

• A girl wants Santa to find a boyfriend for her favorite aunt in the 2017 romance "Wrapped Up in Christmas" (8 p.m., Lifetime).

• In a hurry to get from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles for the holidays, a self-important journalist is forced to take the railroad in the 2017 fable "The Christmas Train" (8 p.m., Hallmark).

• After a would-be author is dumped by her best-selling boyfriend, she opts for a romance writing seminar at a quaint hotel in the 2017 bauble "The Mistletoe Inn" (10 p.m., Hallmark).


College football action with Clemson vs. South Carolina (7:30 p.m., ESPN), Notre Dame vs. Stanford (8 p.m., ABC) and Washington State vs. Washington (8 p.m., Fox).

• John O'Hurley and David Frei host The National Dog Show (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG), which originally aired on Thanksgiving.

• A couple endures a third pet-related breakup on "Cat vs. Dog" (10 p.m., Animal Planet, TV-PG).

"Killer Women With Piers Morgan" (10 p.m., ID, TV-14) profiles Amber Wright, a jilted teen-turned-murderer.


• On "60 Minutes" (7:30 p.m., CBS): distributing food in Puerto Rico; doctors under fire in Syria; Scotland's unique Isle of Eigg.

• Steve Harvey hosts the 66th Miss Universe Competition (7 p.m., Fox, TV-PG), live from Las Vegas.

• The Pittsburgh Steelers host the Green Bay Packers in "Sunday Night Football" (8:20 p.m., NBC).

• The 2017 Soul Train Awards (8 p.m., BET, VH1, TV-14) honor the best in soul and R&B.

• Claire wades ashore on a remote island on "Outlander" (8 p.m., Starz, TV-MA).

"Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" (9 p.m., CNN) visits Southern Italy.

• Optimism and arguments on "The Walking Dead" (9 p.m., AMC, TV-MA).

"Keeping Up With the Kardashians" (9 p.m., E!, TV-14) presents "A Very Kardashian Holiday."

• A cartel kingpin escapes from prison on "Madam Secretary" (10:30 p.m., CBS, TV-14).


Delivery mishaps on "America's Funniest Home Videos" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) * Mia gets a break on "Wisdom of the Crowd" (8:30 p.m., CBS, TV-14) * On two episodes of "Shark Tank" (ABC, TV-PG), coconut water (9 p.m.), skateboard storage (10 p.m., r) * Joelle's actions seem fishy on "NCIS: Los Angeles" (9:30 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

© 2017, United Feature Syndicate