Criticism of contemporary TV is really low-hanging fruit for a media blogger, but the vast wasteland of television programming today has a few oases. One is the remarkably evocative, alternately hopeful and heartbreaking documentary, "Country Boys," by David Sutherland, airing its final segment tonight on PBS.
A companion film of sorts to the 1998 PBS blockbuster "The Farmer's Wife," "Country Boys" turns the lens to Cody Perkins and Chris Johnson, two teenage boys from Appalachian Kentucky. Although wired to the world via the Internet and cable, they are deeply rooted in a region stigmatized as "other," where the lack of economic opportunity puts its youth under uncommon pressure. The film follows them over three years, from ages 15 to 18, examining what it means to come of age in Appalachia.
In fact, the documentary evokes far more than even filmmaker David Sutherland admits in that description. Cody's and Chris' circumstances -- if they could somehow translate -- would be just as withering for teenagers in the big-city. And although they are products of a chronically depressed region, their lives offer a window into a generation we might not fully understand. These aren't kids on the fringe. They are like many of the kids you know.