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Tuesday, September 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 63.0° F  A Few Clouds
Arts
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Anne Frank lives!
Brace yourself for the most powerful adaptation ever
on
An eternal rebuke to barbarism.
An eternal rebuke to barbarism.

After reading The Diary of Anne Frank, you really can't get anything done for the rest of the day. Anne's account of hiding from the Nazis gives you a profound sense of The Best and The Worst of the human race. The Worst wins the battle, as the Nazis send Anne, her family and friends to the concentration camps after their two years in a cramped Amsterdam annex. But The Best wins the war. As fragile as she is, young Anne's humanity remains indomitable, and her words stand as an eternal rebuke to barbarism.

That's powerful stuff, and it's no surprise that movie, TV and theatrical adaptations have fallen short. Until now. "The Diary of Anne Frank" on Masterpiece Classic (Sunday, 8 p.m., PBS) sticks closely to the source material; it doesn't sanitize, sensationalize or sentimentalize the diary. The production trusts Anne's words to communicate her intelligence, sensitivity and yearning everything that makes us feel like we know her.

The set is modeled closely on the real hiding place, with its narrow passageways and industrial colors. The British cast is stunning, particularly Ellie Kendrick as Anne. The actress communicates subtle emotions without hitting a wrong note. She looks very much like Anne, too, giving you the sense that the doomed girl once again walks the Earth.

As a result, the ending arrives with devastating force. So much for getting anything done for the rest of the day.

Or week.

Treme
Sunday, 9 pm (HBO)

David Simon (The Wire) sets his new drama in New Orleans just after Hurricane Katrina. The series evokes its setting so vividly you can practically smell the gumbo and feel the humidity on the back of your neck. We follow a wide range of characters trying to raise themselves, and their city, from the dead, including a down-and-out trombonist, a bar owner, a Mardi Gras Indian chief and a crazed DJ who provides humor amid the wreckage.

Treme is in no hurry to get anywhere, plot-wise. It ambles among the storylines, stopping to listen to a band or follow a boisterous parade. The series simply offers a slice of life but a spicy one, with a side of funky music. Who wouldn't want another serving of that?

Runaway Squad
Monday, 9 pm (A&E)

Nothing's worse than reality-series showboats who pretend to chase bad guys while the cameras roll. Dog the Bounty Hunter, Steven Seagal and their ilk strike heroic poses for the purpose of self-aggrandizement, not law enforcement.

You don't get that sense with Joe Mazzilli, a former cop who now finds runaway kids as a private investigator. Maybe Mazzilli is just a better actor, but you feel that he's a no-nonsense good guy who truly cares about his work. He has bulging biceps and a quietly menacing authority that comes in handy when facing down the pimps and gang members harboring a runaway girl.

"Anyone who would do this to a child," he says in a deep tough-guy voice worthy of The Sopranos, "they don't belong on this planet."

Runaway Squad is the rare reality series that could actually do some good in the world - not just in finding runaway kids, but in scaring off those who would exploit them. If Mazzilli's biceps aren't a deterrent, I don't know what is.

9 by Design
Tuesday, 10 pm (Bravo)

Robert and Courtney are self-satisfied narcissists who move their six kids several times a year to satisfy their obsession with house-flipping. They herd the kids into a new place, fix it up, and herd them out again when they get a high enough offer. Now they put their poor offspring through one more childhood nightmare: a reality series about their lives.

Everything Robert and Courtney do is supposed to prove how cool they are, including giving their children names like Five and Breaker. Indeed, you sense that Courtney has gotten pregnant with child number seven just because they needed one more family member to rhyme the title's "Design" with "9." These parents from hell appear to do nothing for the kids' benefit. Robert interacts with them via hectoring jokes, designed to distract them from how unhappy they are. He bellows "Who reeks like a pig?" to ward off their complaints about yet another move.

Who reeks like a pig? Don't look now, dude, but it's you.

Top Chef Masters
Wednesday, 10 pm (Bravo)

The regular version of Top Chef showcases chefs who haven't made it big yet - some good, some bad. Top Chef Masters, by contrast, showcases chefs who've already arrived. All of them are good, and that's a problem, dramatically speaking. The series tries hard to create cooking challenges for these experts, but they tend to handle them with ease while remaining civil to one another, as befits mature professionals. As a result, you don't really look forward to the judging round, which becomes a boring parade of excellence.

"You did a brilliant job."

"The dish was a revelation."

"The flavors were gorgeous."

Now we know: Too many good cooks spoil the broth.

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