'Film' Views a World Beyond Hollywood

July 13, 1993|RICK DU BROW

TV or not TV. . . .

ON LOCATION: Veteran actress-turned-writer Rita Gam arrives on TV here this week with a new documentary series about foreign film industries competing with "that great bulldozer called Hollywood."

Gam, whose movies as a performer range from "Klute" to "Night People," is the host and co-producer of "World of Film," which offers the first of three programs Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on KCET-TV Channel 28.

The initial show, written and directed by Daniel Selznick, focuses on Britain. The next two programs, in what eventually is expected to be a 13-part series for PBS stations, will look at filmmaking in Sweden (July 24) and Hungary (July 31).

Films of foreign lands "are not appreciated enough in their own countries or here" because of Hollywood's overpowering influence, says the New York-based Gam, whose planned future subjects for the series include India, Czechoslovakia, Africa, Japan, Mexico and Poland.

Gam, who co-produced "World of Film" with Harry Cahill, says that she moved into new arenas "instead of plunging into that black pit that actresses fall into after 40." A stage, TV and film performer, she turned to occasional journalism, and her books include "Actors: A Celebration" and "Actress to Actress."

Of her documentary series, she says that "the homogenizing impact of Hollywood makes it important that we get to know filmmakers of the world besides ourselves. People want to hold on to their own identities."

In an odd way, says Gam, her former Hollywood career gave her access to a number of people abroad for the series "because they're still playing my old adventure films," some of which were made overseas.

Of her writing, Gam says she's "stuck on my biography because I can't and won't tell the really juicy stories, and the rest has been told. They all want me to write about Grace Kelly (a longtime friend)--of course. But what more can I say? There are certain names that you should keep a shine on, and she's one of them. They'll only pay if you demean."

Of her role with "World of Film," Gam says: "I can survive any place after working with (director) Tyrone Guthrie at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in the 1960s. I got rid of all my spoiled, neurotic conceptions that I got in Hollywood. It was like going into the British army. You learned survival and values."

CAREER MOVE: Arthur Kent, known as the "Scud Stud" during his reporting of the Gulf War for NBC, left the network on bitter terms, but now has an hour documentary coming up on Ted Turner's TBS superstation on Aug. 8. It's a "World of Audubon Special" titled "Backlash in the Wild," and it deals with environmental battles.

HOT PROPERTY: If HBO doesn't turn last weekend's "Laurel Avenue" miniseries--about a contemporary black family--into a continuing program, one of the commercial networks should try to snap it up.

The show, for which Charles Dutton of Fox TV's "Roc" was co-executive producer, is exactly what the networks lack--a serious black drama--and would make a terrific prime-time serial with the richness of its working-class characters.

FLIP SIDE: ABC's "Home Improvement" was No. 1 in the ratings released last week, but I never realized how smartly the production presented comedian Tim Allen until I caught some of his stand-up special Saturday on KCAL-TV Channel 9. Originally done for Showtime, the material was, to put it mildly, nothing to write home about, and pretty crude to boot.

SLIPPAGE: CBS' once-dominant image as the home of serious, in-depth news suffered another blow with the decision of the respected Bruce Morton to leave the network and move to CNN. It's a major acquisition for the cable network.

GAME PLAN: Good advice from Tom Snyder on his CNBC cable talk show to Conan O'Brien, David Letterman's late-night successor at NBC: "Bet on you. Don't bet on the management. Don't bet on the executives. Don't bet on the entourage. Bet on you."

SURVEY: Letterman, heading for CBS, has a big edge with college students in his coming head-to-head competition with NBC's Jay Leno, according to a poll.

Conducted by U. The National College Magazine, the poll reported: "Of the first 1,376 calls received from college students at 237 campuses across the country, 85% of the respondents said they will watch Letterman when he moves to CBS in August."

ENCORE: The late Audrey Hepburn's "Gardens of the World" series, hosted by the actress, will be rerun by KCET on three consecutive Sunday nights beginning this weekend.

NEW LOOK: The casting of two women in key roles this fall in the male-dominated starring cast of NBC's "Law & Order" was just a matter of time. The series, one of TV's best, is clearly trying to broaden its viewer appeal--but it's too bad that actor Richard Brooks, who has been superb as an assistant district attorney, is being replaced in the process.

KILLER: Those daily back-to-back reruns of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" from 10-11 p.m. on Nick at Nite cable simply blow away almost everything else on the screen. They are just plain timeless.

NIGHT WORK: We've seen the pilot of Valerie Bertinelli's new fall NBC sitcom, "Cafe Americain," which is set in Paris. And let's just say that the sudden new casting of Marion Ross ("Brooklyn Bridge") as the cafe owner is--well, uh--a start.

MYSTERY: "Full House" was right up there in the ratings again for the week of June 28-July 4, and I'm sure that some day I'll meet somebody who watches it.

BEING THERE: "In the pot, put the chicken."

--Molly Goldberg (Gertrude Berg)

in "The Goldbergs"

Say good night, Gracie. . . .

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