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Tv Reviews : 2 Drug Documentaries: Give 'em A Tranquilizer

November 14, 1986|LEE MARGULIES | Times Staff Writer

Now that President Reagan has made the war on drugs a national priority, KTTV Channel 11 and KHJ-TV Channel 9 are jumping forth with documentaries to show that they are good soldiers.

Let's hope the law-enforcement agents in the trenches are more adept at their jobs than these rear-guard program producers are at theirs.

KTTV's "Trail of Greed--Trail of Death," airing at 8:30 tonight, relies on generalizations, unsubstantiated allegations and hyperbole to report on the production and exporting of drugs in the Mexican states of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua.

Newsman Chris Harris, who produced and wrote the half-hour program with Debby Biringer, seems more interested in dramatizing his helicopter ride to a marijuana field in Mexico than in coherently documenting the combination of corruption and poverty that some authorities believe are at the heart of the Mexican drug trade.

KHJ-TV's "The L.A. Drug Wars," scheduled for broadcast Sunday at 8 p.m., goes to the other extreme, demonstrating an astonishing grasp of the obvious.

Dan Medina, who wrote, produced and directed the hourlong documentary, has made a film for people who've only just heard that the nation has a drug problem. He explains what drugs are being used, shows authorities looking for drugs and reports on where drug abusers can get help.

His arresting conclusion: "Popular use of illegal drugs took its hold back in the '60s, has been with us ever since, and there is no quick fix. In the meantime, the sellers, the users, the abusers and the war on drugs will continue."

As pointless as that is, it pales in comparison to the way Harris winds up his KTTV documentary. Reporting on the growing numbers of drug-attributed deaths, he says, "A few of the victims--like John Belushi, basketball star Len Bias and pro football player Don Rogers--are mourned by many. Most--people like you and me--are mourned by a few. And some are mourned by none."

Put the passing of these two programs in the latter category.

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