The Legacy of Arthur Ashe Reviews

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As part of Tennis Channel ’s “Signature Series,” a collection of docs about some of the sport’s most celebrated athletes, the net is airing a televised biography of Arthur Ashe at the conclusion of its US Open coverage Sun, Aug 31, 11pm ET. An activist and humanitarian as well as a best-in-class player, Ashe was the first man to win the US Open in 1968, in its very first year. With that result, he became the first African-American man to win the singles title at the US Open or as it was known at the time, the U.S. National Championships. Ashe died of AIDS in 1993, which he contracted from a blood transfusion during heart surgery. We caught up with Tennis chmn and CEO Ken Solomon to chat about the doc and Arthur Ashe, as the exec played a significant role in its production. How were you involved with this project? And were you more involved with this than with others in the series? One of the advantages of being a nimble, independent network is that we all get to work on everything without unnecessary bureaucracy. That said, this project was extremely personal for me and began with my discussions with [Arthur’s widow] Jeanne Ashe quite some time ago. While I have been closely involved with many of our originals, especially our other Signature Series premiere events like Agassi, Vita, Martina and Bud Collins, this was by far the most hands-on for me in working with head of programming Laura Hockridge, director Nitin Varma and our originals team. Given that Ashe’s civil rights activism is a focus of the doc, what do you think about the timing, in light of what has occurred in Ferguson? Though we obviously could have never foreseen these events, it is uncanny that this civil and racial unrest is happening now, near the very city of St. Louis that Arthur moved to as a child, just so he could play interracial tennis legally. For the full Q&A, go to – Kaylee Hultgren

“The League,” season VI premiere, Wed, 10p, FXX. The season 6 opener is downright tasteless at times, yet produces chuckles. Loaded with pigskin personalities like announcer Rich Eisen and Texans’ star JJ Watt, who acquits himself well, there’s also a funny bit with players Cameron Jordan and Jordon Cameron. Much of the ep feels like Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” loaded with gallows humor. You’ll laugh, but might hate yourself for it. — “Houdini,” premiere, Mon, 9p, History. Considering History’s track record with scripted minis shown on holidays, it is little surprise that “Houdini” is a well-made, good-looking 2-part drama (hours 3-4 premiere Tues). Adrien Brody does a fine job as the famous prestidigitator, whose trademark escapes are re-created with appropriate bravado, including camerawork showing the trick behind the magic. The film falters somewhat in its lack of an overarching conception and disjointed storyline. In addition, Houdini’s role as an international spy, presented as fact here, remains subject to debate. No matter, a new generation will meet an historical figure in an entertaining, fun and interesting way. That’s magic Houdini would appreciate. — “The Believer,” Thurs, 10p, ESPNU. Singer Kenny Chesney admirably profiles Univ of SC football coach Steve Spurrier, who’s won at every college he’s led. And at 69, the ol’ ball coach still has the fire. – Seth Arenstein

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