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TV REVIEW : KCET's 'Take Five' Series Plays Beat the Clock

June 26, 1989|TERRY ATKINSON

If a comparison of their half-hour premieres is indicative, KCET's "Take Five: Science" (debuting at 7:30 tonight on Channel 28) makes better use of its time than its sibling "Take Five: Arts" (which debuted last Monday), even if "Science" does take more liberties with the limits on that time.

The idea behind "Take Five" is to cover a single subject in five minutes, with segments airing four days a week from 7:30-7:35 p.m. But occasionally KCET will air compilations, where, it seems, the rules aren't quite so strict. There are only four segments in tonight's initial "Science" half-hour, and one of these--on UC Santa Barbara anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon --runs almost nine minutes.

Perhaps it's only coincidence that the Chagnon piece is also the best of the four--a fascinating and even, somehow, reasonably comprehensive look at one man's attempt to document and preserve an Amazonian tribe threatened by everyone from shaman-degrading Christian missionaries to murderous gold miners.

Or perhaps it isn't coincidence. Five--or even six or seven--minutes is an awfully small amount of time to cover something like headaches, the first topic "Science" addresses tonight.

The strain shows: One moment we're being told about migraines, then the subject switches to "cluster" headaches, stays there a while, gives way to a short statement about "mind over matter" in combatting the pain, and then suddenly it's over.

The other two segments fall somewhere between these extremes. A piece on the origins of the moon benefits from some neat computer animation illustrating the impact theory. The other segment, examining what makes certain athletes peak performers, has a slow-motion shot of Dodger star pitcher Orel Hershiser doing his stuff in shorts only, but it still doesn't leave much of an impression.

Produced and introduced by Roger Bingham (from KCET's defunct "California Stories" series), "Take Five: Science" should prove interesting to keep track of--not only for its potpourri of subjects but also for how well it battles that ticking clock.

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