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RICK DU BROW

TV a Uniting Link as Verdicts Come In

April 20, 1993|RICK DU BROW

TV or not TV. . . .

BONDING: It was a TV campfire experience like few others.

When the verdicts in the Rodney G. King trial came down shortly after 7 a.m. Saturday, many in the Los Angeles area were huddled around TV sets, sharing the same tense, historic moment.

In an age when TV viewing is being fractionalized by a flood of channels, the city's local stations became the kind of gathering place that networks used to be for momentous events.

As fortune would have it, the decision to disclose the verdicts as Los Angeles was waking up Saturday turned out to be perfect in terms of addressing a TV audience at a quiet, home-oriented hour.

With offices deserted, most people not at work, schools closed and families still together as the day began, TV was able to command a kind of viewing unity under difficult circumstances, when anything was possible in the uncertain King verdicts.

After the verdicts, as TV helicopters circled downtown, the shots of the quiet Los Angeles below were eerily wonderful. It truly seemed to be the City of Angels. And one would never forget that sight.

A year ago, in the rioting that followed the first King trial, the same helicopters and TV cameras were showing a city in flames; smoke billowing from buildings and alongside freeways in an urban war zone; looters and police and helpless citizens creating an image that raised fears of new violence on Saturday.

But TV's coverage after the verdicts showed, instead, memorable images of the human yearnings for peace in a city racked with violence and concern over further eruptions.

It will be interesting to watch the violence-oriented, often sensational, local TV news broadcasts to see whether they learned something from the power of peace on the home screen or will continue to be part of the problem instead of the solution.

Unfortunately, we probably know the answer already.

*

COMMUNICATOR: Los Angeles Police Chief Willie L. Williams, who took over the job last year, is a TV natural, and it never showed more than during the weekend.

STREET TALK: At the site of the videotaped King beating in 1991, a black community leader said in a dramatic interview with KABC-TV Channel 7 Saturday that she was pleased with the two convictions: "A lot of people thought that they were going to walk."

COMIC RELIEF: Minutes before the verdicts were announced, a KABC reporter asked a National Guardsman: "You're from Kentucky--how are you going to help us out in California?"

TAKING CHARGE: When government officials involved in the King case tried to end their lengthy, televised news conference after the verdicts, a guy in the media told them bluntly: "What's the rush? We've waited seven or eight weeks to speak to you." The government guys stayed.

DESIGNATED HITTER: KTTV-TV Channel 11 recently replaced Chris Harris as its nightly news anchor but called on him in a pinch to do the heavy-duty stuff during its verdict coverage.

LEARNING EXPERIENCE: Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block said on TV that preparations by various agencies for the outcome of the King trial have not been a wasted effort and could be helpful in other emergency situations--for instance, if the Big One hits. It makes sense. Welcome to L.A. It's always something.

LIFE GOES ON: Those TV shots of activities around the city after the verdicts--including kids playing traditional Saturday-morning softball games--served as a genuine catharsis for viewers easing back into the natural swing of things.

SIGNPOST: I guess I knew we were OK Saturday when I flipped on KTLA-TV Channel 5 at 11:15 a.m. and saw "Soul Train."

*

BOOKING: Ice-T does a two-part interview on NBC's "Later With Bob Costas" starting next Tuesday night after the David Letterman show.

TWO FOR THE MONEY: If there are any better shows in all of broadcasting than Garrison Keillor's Saturday-evening radio program on KUSC-FM and Letterman's nightly gig on NBC, I don't know them.

LAST CALL: NBC's big May 20 blast for the finale of "Cheers" will wind up with Jay Leno and "The Tonight Show" originating from Boston's Bull and Finch Pub, the model for the sitcom's bar. "Cheers" cast members will be on hand.

TANDEM: ABC's new Tuesday pairing of "Roseanne" and "Delta" has rolled up solid ratings in recent weeks. With "Roseanne" as its lead-in, "Delta" drew 23% of the audience two weeks ago and then 26% last Tuesday.

MIRROR, MIRROR: The important thing, Richard Simmons says in an infomercial, is to look in the mirror and say, "I am worth it." Well, it may not work in every case.

BULLETIN BOARD: At last--a parody of TV's "fact-based" movies. It's a Fox TV project called "Based on an Untrue Story." And it's about a perfume mogul who loses her sense of smell and, while searching for a cure, encounters "a serial killer, a lecherous high school teacher (who is) after students and a rescue team trying to save a lost child." Dyan Cannon and Rikki Lake are in the cast.

BEING THERE: "If you can't be immortal, why bother?"--Walter Matthau in the film "A New Leaf," rerun on KTTV.

Say good night, Gracie. . . .

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