Black Art: In the Absence of Light

‘Black Art: In the Absence of Light’ airing on HBO.

Blending business history, changing culinary tastes and “branding” battles, “The Food That Built America” (9 p.m., History, TV-PG) enters its second season.

It begins in the 1950s, as two brothers attempt to introduce Americans to pizza as a popular dish, only to inspire rivals. On one level, the story of Pizza Hut, Domino’s and “fast food,” it also concerns the convergence of other historical factors.

Millions of American G.I.s had served in Europe in World War II and had been introduced to foods and flavors that would have been considered too exotic only decades before. Pizza included.

Similarly, Italian-American culture was entering the mainstream. In the early decades of the 20th century, Italian immigrants were consigned to their own neighborhoods and parishes, often speaking their own languages. The Sacco-Vanzetti trial and executions of the 1920s demonstrated how easy it was for mass media to demonize a “foreign element.”

By the 1950s, suburbs were sprouting up, and children from ethnic groups that had avoided each other in crowded cities soon were attending public schools together and watching TV in each other’s living rooms, most notably “The Mickey Mouse Club,” featuring Annette Funicello as the all-American girl next door.

After this little Tuesday night snack, “Food That Built America” will move to Sunday nights.

• “Black Art: In the Absence of Light” (8 p.m., HBO, TV-MA) takes a sweeping look at the history of Black artists in America, reaching back to the early 19th century, when free artists of color, slaves and former slaves emerged as masters of pottery, landscape and portrait painting. Few of them ever had been celebrated or recognized until a landmark 1976 museum show “Two Centuries of Black American Art” was assembled to coincide with the American Bicentennial. Artist and curator David Driskell, who mounted that show, is seen here discussing Black artists who have emerged since. Driskell died in 2020.

In addition to showcasing some of the most exciting artists of this century, “Art” discusses the rise of a collecting class among Black entrepreneurs.

Gore Vidal once said he didn’t want to be called a gay writer because he didn’t want to think of his books segregated to a “gay” bookshelf. “Black Art” wrestles with similar questions of identity, interpretation and audience.

I’m not given to survey histories or films with such a broad subject, but “Black Art” reminded me I knew almost nothing about its many subjects. At the end of this about 90-minute film, I felt I had tasted only a nibble of a rich banquet of ideas and personalities. Highly recommended.

• Based on a 2000 novel by Peter Carey, “True History of the Kelly Gang” (8:30 p.m., Sho2), starring George MacKay (“1917”), recalls Australian outlaws from the 1870s.

The legend of Ned Kelly has inspired several films, an Australian musical, a radio play and popular songs recorded by Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. Mick Jagger portrayed the gangster in the 1970 drama “Ned Kelly,” and Heath Ledger played him in “Ned Kelly” in 2003.


— Simon makes a serious charge on “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

— The hospital faces closure on “The Resident” (7 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

— A chemical plant robbery leaves two customs officers dead on “FBI” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

— Kevin’s self-absorption proves crippling on “This Is Us” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

— Perfectionism has its costs on “Prodigal Son” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

— Kidnapping victims have secrets of their own on “FBI: Most Wanted” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

— A religious fanatic refuses treatment on “Nurses” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

— Cassie and Jenny have their doubts on “Big Sky” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

— “Frontline” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) looks at Iranian-backed assassins at work in Iraq.


Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter”) stars in the 2016 dark comedy “Swiss Army Man” (8:35 p.m., Showcase) as a gaseous corpse that serves as a life raft for a stranded man (Paul Dano).


A petty officer expires on “NCIS” (7 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... “To Tell the Truth” (7 p.m., ABC, TV-14) ... That’s morgue like it on “Two Sentence Horror Stories” (7 p.m., CW, TV-14), followed by a repeat episode (7:30 p.m.) ... Bow’s big milestone on “black-ish” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Lessons learned on “Trickster” (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) ... Paul invites a student to join the family on “mixed-ish” (8:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).


Jimmy Fallon welcomes Priyanka Chopra Jonas, LaKeith Stanfield and Joy Oladokun on “The Tonight Show” (10:34 p.m., NBC) ... Casey Affleck and Anthony Atamanuik visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (11:37 p.m., NBC).

Kevin McDonough can be reached at