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Tv Review : Kcet Premieres 'Arts Illustrated'

December 18, 1985|LEE MARGULIES | Times Staff Writer

You know we're in trouble if the best television coverage of the lively Southern California arts scene is being provided by "Entertainment Tonight." That's why KCET's decision to produce a quarterly news magazine on that very subject was good news.

Tonight's premiere of "Arts Illustrated" (9 p.m., Channel 28) isn't such good news, however. Although serious-minded and earnest, the 90-minute program falls into the very stereotype that has long plagued the disciplines of art, dance, drama and classical music it seeks to cover: It's stuffy, dull and frequently inaccessible to viewers who aren't already familiar with the subject.

Producers Karen Minsberg and Roger Bingham (who co-hosts with Hunter Drohojowska) faced a tough job in establishing a tone that would serve both the sophisticated arts patron and the viewer who is interested but not well-schooled in them. The evidence here suggests they did not resolve the dilemma.

Nor, it seems, did they have a strong sense of purpose for "Arts Illustrated," other than to chronicle in this year-end edition the significant events of 1985, such as the New Music America Festival, the opening of the L. A. Theatre Center and the Maya art exhibit at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.

There is a feeling of randomness in the choice and a lack of focus in the execution of the feature stories, which include visits to the La Jolla Playhouse and the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, an interview with actor Anthony Robinson about his performance in the play "In the Belly of the Beast" and an introduction to the Grand Kabuki Company from Tokyo.

Many of the interviews are interesting and even occasionally insightful, but the viewer isn't given much help in making them add up to anything.

One doesn't necessarily want "Arts Illustrated" to be "Arts Expounded," but there must be a happy medium.

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