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Tv Review : A Look At Life On The Chesapeake

January 15, 1986|LEE MARGULIES | Times Staff Writer

We are so used to "National Geographic" swatting extra-base hits that when it merely delivers a single, we tend to be disappointed.

That's the case with "Chesapeake Borne," the first offering of its new TV season, airing at 8 tonight on Channels 28, 15, 24 and 50. It's interesting but not as amazing, insightful or involving as the best of this distinguished series of documentaries.

The subject is the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States. Rather than simply a large body of water that supports a variety of life forms, writer-producer David F. Oyster sees the Chesapeake as a dominant force in the lives of the people who have grown up along its shores.

"Chesapeake Borne" is at its strongest in demonstrating how culture is shaped by environment. We see fishermen who make their living off the bay, sportsmen who pursue their recreation in the bay, Navy seamen who train on the bay and artists who take their inspiration from the bay. We see a Miss Crustacean beauty contest in Crisfield, Md., and a goose-calling contest in Easton, Md.

Where the program falls short is in instilling larger meaning to this look at an unusual way of life. Oyster wants us to care about how the Chesapeake natives are being affected by the changes that humans are causing in the bay's ecology, but he offers little more than superficial hand-wringing, with few specifics about how and why these changes are occurring and whether they might be rectified.

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