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LETTERS : Dino-Sore

June 13, 1993

Regarding "A Periodic Table of Fatal Amusements," Chris Willman's suggested "Summer Splash" itineraries (May 30):

In writing, "To wean the tots off that simple-minded brontosaurus (Barney), parents, we suggest a quick trip to 'Jurrasic Park,' " Willman fails to realize that the PG-13 rating serves a valuable function for parents in shielding children from unnecessary trauma: in this case, "intense science fiction terror."

This sadly malevolent, impatient and violence-embracing advice serves only to subject children to trauma they are unprepared to handle: Screen violence is real violence to children under 7. While most parents are probably as sick of Barney as Willman appears to be, the television dinosaur's message of peaceful resolution, good cheer and happy coexistence--however mundane to adults--serves many children's developmental capacities well.

Willman's kind of thinking serves only to reinforce in my mind the truly monstrous--that not only can children be beaten and terrorized without physical force, but that the mainstream media actually suggest it.


Los Angeles

Laugh and Learn

As well-meaning as Ed Markey, Peggy Charren and James Quello may be, ultimately they're nothing but wrongheaded censors ("Fear Is a Great Motivator," by Richard Mahler, May 30).

They want to force TV stations to air "educational" programs. Since when does the government get to decide what we may see or say?--the First Amendment lists no exception for the Federal Communications Commission. Unfortunately, since this form of censorship pleases liberals, they turn a blind eye to broadcast regulations in the "public interest."

The fact is there are already public stations that present educational shows; kids who want to watch them can. By and large they don't--if they did, you couldn't keep such shows off the other channels.

Here's an idea: Let the TV stations program shows that are entertaining. And as for kids' education, well, the government does have these things called schools. Maybe it can concentrate on doing a better job there, and then it wouldn't need to rely on TV so much.


Los Angeles

Television program directors have an either-or mentality that assumes that a program cannot be both entertaining and educational. This is probably a throwback to horrible memories of sitting in the back row of Miss Biddle's class, forced to watch 16-millimeter films about the importance of yak in Tibet.

Despite reports to the contrary, educational methods and tools have improved greatly since then. Talk to any teacher who spends day after day in a classroom filled with three-minute attention spans. They know the importance of making the learning experience entertaining, and they know how to do it.

One would think, especially with the advent of interactive television looming in the near future, that television executives would be beating down the doors of these multitalented, entertaining instructors.

No one would want a group of nuclear physicists to write for "Roseanne." Yet educational programs designed for children seem to be created by people whose sole knowledge of child development comes from watching reruns of "The Cosby Show."


West Hollywood

Double the Pleasure

I read with interest Don Shirley's Stage Watch column "Without an Understudy, the Show Barely Goes On" (May 23).

Here's a solution that has worked like gangbusters for the Santa Monica Playhouse's productions of my three plays "Almost Perfect," "Aspirin and Elephants" and "A Love Affair" and is being used again for my comedy-thriller "Killjoy, a Comedy of Terrors," directed by Chris DeCarlo and now in previews: Very simply, we double the cast.

"Killjoy" will open doing four shows a week. As soon as our original cast of six actors opens and gets the show "grooved," we hire another full cast. These are not understudies but first-stringers. We seek and audition every bit as hard for members of our "New Cast." When they are rehearsed and ready, we add one performance to our schedule, making it five shows a week. Our "Opening Cast" then does three shows a week and our "New Cast" does two.

There are many advantages to this plan. First, and most important, the audience is guaranteed a terrific play with terrific actors. Second, we are able to get the finest TV, film and stage actors in town, because they know they'll have the freedom to take other assignments when they come up, because they'll be covered by the actors in the other cast.


Pacific Palisades

A 'Nothing' Venture

Yesternight I didst hie me forth to yon cinema theatre to behold mine favourite comedie, "Much Ado About Nothing," by a favourite writer, one Wm. Shakespeare, and well extoll-ed by thy critick Turan.

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