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Saving Network Tv: The People Respond

April 21, 1985

The Calendar Letters Page on April 14 appealed--in all semi-seriousness--to the reader-masses for fresh, new ideas to help save network television. The generosity of readers has been ample and heartwarming. The least frivolous contributions are segregated in the box at the right. The rest follow.

The answer to the question "Can Network TV Be Saved?" is a simple "no."

The basic forces behind TV are quite powerful and rather dim-witted. The oxymoron of "dramatic series" creates cardboard cutout characters and static plots. Finally, most members of the viewing public seem incapable of assimilating anything more than the most blatantly exploitative morality plays.

Within these restrictions, and within the further confines of a TV programmer's "formats," we can still have a lot of fun. At a minimum, good writers can entertain as well as employ themselves by writing stuff that they find enjoyable. Some of the best comedy and drama on TV comes (came) from writers who wished to amuse themselves: "Second City TV," "Rocky and Bullwinkle" and the early seasons of "Hill Street Blues."

Shows I wouldn't mind seeing or writing:

"What? Me Worry?"--TV shows for kids are either sappy, moralistic plays or pure saccharin pedagogy. A huge gap exists between the way TV portrays life for kids and the vicious real world of divorce, war and corporate takeovers. Put Alfred E. Neuman on the air and teach adolescent viewers the right amounts of cynicism, skepticism and black humor necessary to survive under the nuclear umbrella.

"Tales From the Right Side"--Forget the re-hashed "Twilight Zone" shows; Rod Serling is dead and never coming back. Instead give Harlan Ellison full creative control and let him go nuts one night a week for a half-hour.

"SuperMegaNuke AutoForce"--The robot labs at a Major University, working in secret for the Defense Department, develop an artificially intelligent car, helicopter and motorcycle. These three machines, after watching "Knightrider" and "Airwolf," decide right away that having humans along for the ride hinders their abilities, ruins their lines and hampers the plot (besides, as machines they can work as scabs and shoot pick-ups after the strike). For the first episode, the helicopter goes undercover as a Soviet gunship in Afghanistan and the car masquerades as the Soviet ambassador's diplomatic vehicle in Washington while the team tries to discover whether the Russkies have stashed nukes in Kabul.

KARL GEIGER

Pasadena

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