"Larry Flynt: The Right to Be Left Alone" never disputes its subject's image as a smut peddler. Nor does Flynt himself.
But viewers of this documentary will find a saga far less devoted to silicone than civics. In abundant archival footage stretching through his long, turbulent career, Flynt makes a persuasive case for himself as a First Amendment champion. And, even more important, he argues passionately for his fellow citizens to defend their constitutional rights.
Early on, he paid dearly for his role as an advocate.
In 1978 in Georgia, during one of many trials for allegedly pandering obscenity, Flynt was shot and paralyzed by someone who didn't like the magazine he published. He was left paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. When health permitted, he was re-indicted and convicted.
In another brush with the law, Flynt and Hustler magazine were sued by the Rev. Jerry Falwell in a case eventually heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices' unanimous decision in Flynt's favor had far-reaching effects, protecting every citizen's right to satirize public persons.
"We figure that freedom of the press is only important if it's offensive," Flynt declares in the film. "If we're not gonna offend anybody, we don't need protection of the First Amendment."
A bristling, sometimes disjointed film, "The Right to Be Left Alone" profiles a man you don't have to like to find worth heeding. And a man you may like more than you might have expected.
Directed by Joan Brooker-Marks, it airs on the IFC channel at 9 p.m. Thursday.
Other shows to look out for:
- Vern Yip and Cynthia Rowley play nice as judges on "Design Star." But immediately after the season finale of this HGTV series (Sunday at 9 p.m.), they'll butt heads in a contest to make over what's billed as the ugliest living room in America. Each will have just six hours, with an HGTV carpenter sidekick (Steve Hanneman and James Lunday) and a team of assistants to perform design resuscitation. Airing at 10 p.m., "Battle of the 'Design Star' Judges" is the first in a four-part series of HGTV Summer Showdowns. Among future editions: "Battle of the Sexes," with designer Lisa LaPorta and carpenter Carmen De La Paz pitted against Carter Oosterhouse and Angelo Surmelis, to do the six-hour rescue on America's ugliest kitchen. Start your power saws!
- Once, a popular saying declared "What's good for General Motors is good for the country." But that long-ago symbol of American manufacturing, capitalism and might is now struggling for survival, battered by decades of bad decisions, poor quality and foreign competition. CNBC's documentary "Saving General Motors" takes a look under the hood of this troubled carmaker as it tries to re-engineer itself before it reaches the end of the road. The program profiles GM's "Quality Czar" Bob Lutz, whose mission is to reinvigorate GM's bland product line and improve the quality of its designs and manufacturing. Lutz shows viewers examples of what GM has done wrong in the past and what changes he has made since his arrival. GM is placing massive financial bets on alternative fuel vehicles, especially an "extended range" electric car called the Chevrolet Volt. Viewers watch as Lutz gets behind the wheel of a Volt for the first time. And they go behind the scenes for the development of the all-new Chevrolet Camaro (due early next year), including a test drive with NASCAR giant Dale Earnhardt Jr. Reported by Phil LeBeau, CNBC's auto and airline industry correspondent, the one-hour documentary premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m.
- In 1989, Bob Woodruff was an attorney living in Beijing and teaching law to Chinese students. When the uprising in Tiananmen Square occurred, he signed on as a translator for the American networks. Then he caught the journalism bug. Now, on the eve of the Olympics, he returns to the country where his career as a journalist began, to report "China Inside Out." This ABC News hour explores the global transformation taking place at the outset of what is already being called "The Chinese Century." While much of U.S. foreign policy has been focused on the global War on Terror, China is brimming with massive new wealth and exploding expectations as it reaches out to the rest of the world " and demonstrates its aim to strengthen ties with its neighbors. Woodruff also visits Angola, Brazil, Cambodia and the United States. "China Inside Out: Bob Woodruff Reports" airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. EDT as a special edition of "Primetime."