by Ted S. McGregor Jr. & r & & r & Cowboys and Indians & r & (Rio Grande, Sat., May 26, 3:30 pm, AMC; Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Sun., May 27, 9 pm, HBO) & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & his Memorial Day weekend, TV can show you how our collective memories are manipulated by myths -- and how we dispel them. Ironically, America's most beloved fake Indian fighter, John Wayne, would have been 100 years old the same weekend HBO is bringing the real story of that era's Native Americans to life.
Oddly enough, it's impossible to think of the Indian Wars of 1860-90 without thinking of John Wayne; and it's impossible to think about John Wayne without his director, John Ford -- especially his films Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950). As part of a John Wayne Marathon Saturday, AMC will air Rio Grande.
After WWII, for which he made propaganda films, Ford pumped America up about its history. He was one of the great storytellers, but his films were more like history as written by the conquerors.
Fast-forward 20 years, and Dee Brown's meticulously researched Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was published. This was true history of the systematic subjugation -- and massacres -- of Native Americans during that period. While the Western had waned as a favorite of moviegoers by 1970, America still wasn't ready for the truth. Despite several attempts, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was never produced as a film.
But finally HBO has succeeded, with a dramatic version of the book's last two chapters, when the U.S. Army killed Sitting Bull and, two weeks later, massacred 300 Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee.
One of the film's executive producers, Dick Wolf of Law & amp; Order, says that Wounded Knee is "the last story that hasn't been told about the American Indian. And I think it is the most emotionally searing."
John Ford wouldn't have disagreed; in fact, he tried to make something like Wounded Knee. His final Western was 1964's Cheyenne Autumn, an honest look at the injustices visited on American Indians. (Cheyenne Autumn airs on AMC on Saturday, June 2, at 2 pm.) But the film was ahead of its time and flopped. America likes its myths, and that's why we celebrate John Wayne's birthday by watching Rio Grande. Now, as a belated birthday present from reality, given more than 100 years after the actual events, we're getting the other side of the story.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Cancelled at mid-season, Aaron Sorkin's Sunset Strip may get a shot at some actual ratings, as its final six episodes will start airing this week. With the rest of TV land in reruns, this is one of the only new shows airing now -- so if people still don't watch it, NBC will know it made the right decision. (Thursday, May 24, 10 pm, NBC)
National Memorial Day Concert
This is a fun tradition -- not sure why their Memorial Day concert is the day before Memorial Day, but whatever. This year, Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna host musical guests Natalie Cole, Josh Turner and CeCe Winans in a tribute to the United States military. (Sunday, May 27, 9 pm, PBS)
Diners, Drive-ins and Dives
Hosted by Guy Fieri, the winner of "The Next Food Network Star" contest, this show is a trip down memory lane for baby boomers raised on a steady diet of hash slung at all-American greasy spoons. This week, Guy tries to find "real deal" barbecue. (Monday, May 28, 10 pm, Food Network)??