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‘Undertaking’ down to earth

Tue., Oct. 30, 2007

“Frontline” (9 p.m., KSPS) departs from the headlines with “The Undertaking,” a documentary based on the essays of poet Thomas Lynch, who also happens to be a third-generation funeral director in a small city in Michigan. Like Lynch’s book “The Undertaking” (Norton, 1997), the film opens with the concise and powerful lines: “Every year I bury a couple hundred of my townspeople. Another two or three dozen I take to the crematory to be burned. … I sell caskets, burial vaults, and urns for the ashes. … I am the only funeral director in town.”

Lynch describes and oversees his work with a businessman’s mind for detail and a poet’s eye for the profound.

He describes in aching simplicity the role of the funeral process for the living and the dead, providing the survivors a means of saying goodbye to the departed and of pondering the mysteries of the abyss before returning to the routines of daily life.

Not for the faint of heart, “The Undertaking” is a moving film that viewers will not soon forget.

William Shatner narrates the six-part series “Mars Rising” (9 p.m., Science and Science HD), exploring efforts of NASA, the Russians and the European Space Agency to plan a manned trip to the red planet.

Other highlights

A well-planted farmer on “Bones” (8 p.m., Fox).

“Nova” (7 p.m., KSPS) looks at the rigors of running marathons.

A question of memory on “House” (9 p.m., Fox).

Sam discovers that the devil disapproves of the irreverence of Halloween on “Reaper” (9 p.m., CW).

Mike dabbles in Halloween special effects on “Dirty Jobs” (9 p.m., Discovery).

Brian Williams moderates a debate between Democratic candidates for president (6 p.m., MSNBC).

Alex defends his brother on “Cane” (10 p.m., CBS).

Ludacris guest-stars on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (10 p.m., NBC).

Mare Winningham guest-stars on “Boston Legal” (10 p.m., ABC).

The adventure series “Everest: Beyond the Limit” (10 p.m., Discovery) enters a second season.

The plastic-surgery comedy “Nip/Tuck” (10 p.m., FX) returns for a fifth season.


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