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A Season's Beatings Television Had It's Hits, but a Few Rotten Eggs Left a Dubious Odor

June 09, 1991|HOWARD ROSENBERG | Times Television Critic

Television got love and awards galore for the big things it did during the 1990-91 season. It's the little things that often went unnoticed. Thus, wishing to give TV its full due, we now open these envelopes:

* Fearless Fibber Award: To Paramount's "Hard Copy," for never ever letting facts deter an exploitative, dishonest, gratuitously raunchy story. Driven by tenacious banality, "Hard Copy" has lurched ahead of Fox's "A Current Affair" as TV's tawdriest syndicated tabloid series.

* Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around My Profits Award: To KABC-TV and KCAL-TV, for charging into journalistic no-no land by having their news anchors wear yellow ribbons on their lapels during the Persian Gulf War. The message: Look at us, we're patriots! The cynical intent: To win viewers and earn revenue by publicly piling onto the war wagon.

* What I Don't Cover Won't Hurt Me Award: To KABC-TV, for thumbing its nose at ethics by instigating a policy of not covering local anti-war demonstrations for a significant period during the Gulf conflict. And the same award goes to its parent ABC, for not caring that its Los Angeles station was tailoring news policy to politics by going out of its way to please the preponderance of its viewers, who supported the war.

* Tell It Like It Ain't Award: To KCET-TV, for extreme obfuscation and dissembling in initially canceling "South Africa Now" for alleged bias, then backing off, it said, because subsequent episodes of this now-defunct series had somehow met KCET's standards for journalistic fairness. Not that a small, but vocal, public outcry over the cancellation motivated KCET to make its sudden programming U-turn concerning "South Africa Now." Naturally not.

* Anchor Overboard Award: To KCAL's Pat Harvey, for wearing a naval officer's uniform while recently anchoring the station's 9 p.m. newscast from the Long Beach Naval Station, and to KCAL for letting Commander Pat do everything but enlist during gushy coverage that could pass for a Navy recruiting film.

* Rape Sensitivity Award: To NBC News, for identifying the woman who has accused William Kennedy Smith of raping her in Palm Beach, Fla.

* Local Series for Viewers Who Think Lee Is Buried In Grant's Tomb Award: To KNBC-TV's "Kelly & Gail," for smelling like combat boots while impersonating a daytime talk show. The co-hosts were KNBC news anchor Kelly Lange and comedy writer Gail Parent, their local show a landfill of self-indulgence and unintelligence. That KNBC management would allow a news anchor even to host such a program indicated a lack of sensitivity and judgment. That the show lived only briefly--with KNBC using expanded Gulf War coverage to justify its removal--shows that no station remains stupid forever.

* America's Funniest Home Video Award: To the CBS movie "Her Wicked Ways," for unsurpassed witlessness in depicting two female TV journalists (played by Barbara Eden and Heather Locklear) clawing it out over a glamorous job and a handsome Joe in the nation's capital. Some television is so bad that it's good. But this movie was worse even than that, so wickedly bad that it made you almost forget Eden's inspiring work in "Your Mother Wears Combat Boots."

* Plenty Of Meat but No Backbone Award: To Burger King, for kissing up to boycott-wielding conservative pressure groups. Although denying it was prodded, Burger King took a "family values" loyalty oath only after meeting twice with representatives of Christian Leaders for Responsible Television (CLeaR-TV), the group that threatened to boycott the hamburger chain over its sponsorship of programs the religious group found objectionable. Do you believe in revelations?

* Big Greenback Award: To the forgettable former CBS series "E.A.R.T.H. Force," for foisting formulaic cretinous TV on viewers under the guise of environmentalist drama. Sample line: "I haven't eaten since the Eisenhower Administration." As was noted at the time by one TV critic (blush), this fleeting series was about as much fun as the Eisenhower Administration.

* Teach Your 5-Year-Old A Four-Letter Word Award: To the short-lived CBS series "Uncle Buck," for passing off certain forms of waste matter as humor in conjunction with a general fall trend on all networks toward scheduling foul-mouthed comedy at times when small kids were most likely to be watching. This series was never cleverer than when Buck blew cigar smoke into the faces of his young nephew and two nieces, just one more reason to watch while wearing a gas mask.

* Anchor Lovebirds Award: To KCBS-TV anchors Bree Walker and Jim Lampley, who are married to each other, for constantly cooing on the air and refering to their couplehood.

* I Never Met An Innocent Person I Couldn't Smear Award: To the NBC Tom Brokaw series "Expose," for falsely mislabeling its recent malicious mugging of Sen. Charles Robb (D-Va.) as journalism.

* I Never Met An Issue I Couldn't Exploit Award (given to someone outside of TV): To Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.), for displaying the integrity of Homer Simpson in seeking to gain politically by charging that CNN's Peter Arnett was an Iraqi "sympathizer" for reporting from Baghdad during the Gulf War. Simpson later apologized and amended his charge, saying Arnett was merely a "dupe" of the Iraqis proving, if nothing else, that the senator has an incredible sense of humor. Either that or, like the other award-winners, no sense at all.

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