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TV REVIEWS : '48 Hours' Report Gets Lost on Sunset


Like doctors swarming around a patient they hardly know, the team of reporters for CBS' "48 Hours" stalks Los Angeles and tries to check the pulse of the city in a report misleadingly titled "On Sunset Boulevard" (at 10 tonight, Channels 2 and 8).

It's probably the L.A. street outsiders know the best, and CBS' men--Richard Schlesinger, Randall Pinkston, Phil Jones and Jerry Bowen--try to find out if it's true that L.A. is in decline. (Always a delicious thought for East Coast-based media, who measure the city in terms of smog levels and Hollywood's box-office receipts.)

The idea is to travel Sunset east to west, but, like true Easterners without a map, they get lost in a hurry. After an opening segment pitting whites in fear of Latino overpopulation against Latino businessman Xavier Hermosillo, who says that Latinos are going to "take back" L.A., there's a frenzied visit to Hollywood High School, where older teens are struggling to speak English and the principal is bizarrely Pollyanna-ish.

Bowen then hits the beach, shocked to find violence and--egad!-- polluted ocean ! (Even funnier is L.A. City Councilman Marvin Braude smiling and purring, "Yes, there is some crime . . .")

Once we're off Sunset, a more real L.A. is found:

* The banker who daily drives his Redlands neighbors in a commuter bus, far happier than over-stressed solo drivers.

* A Beverly Hills real-estate salesman whose smiling facade breaks as he talks about the recession.

* China Kantner, daughter of Grace Slick and Paul Kantner, hustling for acting work, while writer Larry Gelbart sits by his pool and doubts her chances.

* People fleeing L.A. out of fear or homesickness (one woman is moving back to New York City because she feels safer there).

But the "48 Hours" crew didn't venture far enough off Sunset. Had they done so, they would have found a segregated city where anyone who can is leaving the center, a growing Balkanization and a place at the heart of the world's economic turmoil. That takes more than a zip down the boulevard.

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