Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 29° Partly Cloudy
News >  Features

Stretch your imagination with ‘Avatar’

Kevin McDonough United Feature Syndicate

Fairy tales used to be so simple. Stories for children began with “Once upon a time…” and generally concerned kings and princesses and ogres and trolls. Real basic stuff.

Now many cartoons aimed at kids involve whole pantheons of mystical entities and levels of martial-arts power. You almost have to immerse yourself in an alternative religion to get the gist.

Take “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (7 p.m., Nickelodeon).

For starters, what in the heck is an Airbender?

“Avatar” begins with a long (well, it seemed long to me, and I’m not 8 years old) prologue explaining how a once-peaceful world was divided into four balanced realms of fire, ice, wind and earth. Then, for reasons unexplained, the fire people started pushing everyone else around, and a century-long war of subjugation began.

In the meantime, the oppressed nonfire people awaited the return of the long-lost Avatar. Why? Because he’s an Airbender!

I feel like a Windbender myself after that belabored explanation.

As if all of this mystical malarkey weren’t enough, “Avatar” features a raft of annoying teen and ‘tween characters.

Katara is a nice enough girl – for a Waterbender who lives at the South Pole. But her useless brother Sokka sounds like a mall rat who’s just been denied cell phone privileges.

Together, they discover Aang, a fun-loving Airbender who has been frozen in an iceberg for a hundred years or so.

After this week’s debut, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” will air on Friday nights at 8 p.m. on Nickelodeon.

“Ego Trip’s Race-o-Rama” (9 p.m., VH1) looks at the role of race in movies, music and videos over three nights. Along the way, it continues to exploit and popularize images and ideas that have been kicking around since the time of the first minstrel shows.

Tonight’s presentation, “Dude, Where’s My Ghetto Pass?” looks at ways that whites copy black language, style and slang. Several talking heads explain that if white kids come to their ‘hoods trying to “pass,” they deserve to be beaten up.

Then, without apparent irony, Tuesday’s installment, “Blackophobia,” asks, “How much longer will black people be stereotyped as the toughest and most intimidating minority in America?” Probably as long as big corporations like Viacom perpetrate shows like “Dude, Where’s My Ghetto Pass?”

“American Experience” (9 p.m., KSPS) repeats “Malcolm X: Make It Plain” on the 40th anniversary of his assassination.

Other highlights

The top 12 men perform on “American Idol” (8 p.m., Fox).

A Peach State transformation on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: How’d They Do That?” (8 p.m., ABC).

Ed calls on an old pal (Sylvester Stallone) on “Las Vegas” (9 p.m., NBC). Gee, I wonder if this has anything to do with Sly’s new NBC reality series?

Audrey begins to suspect her ex on “24” (9 p.m., Fox).

All 23 rejects return to vent on “The Bachelorette” (9 p.m., ABC).

A woman seeks legal help to prevent someone from her past from stalking her in the 2005 thriller “Fatal Reunion” (9 p.m., Lifetime).

Where there’s smoke, there’s suspicion on “CSI: Miami” (9:30 p.m., CBS).

Allison’s brother shares her gift on “Medium” (10 p.m., NBC).

Cult choice

Twins (Hayley Mills in a double role as a prissy snob and a tomboy) scheme to reunite their parents (Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith) in the 1961 comedy “The Parent Trap” (9 p.m., Hallmark).

Series notes

Bo Derek guest stars on “Still Standing” (8 p.m., CBS) … Joe Rogan hosts “Fear Factor” (8 p.m., NBC) … Flex makes a power play on “One on One” (8 p.m., UPN) … In the family way on “7th Heaven” (8 p.m., WB).

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.