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TV Reviews : 'Earthquake!' Not for the Faint-Hearted

July 15, 1994|MARTIN ZIMMERMAN

It was with more than a little trepidation that I agreed to review "Earthquake! What We Know Now." Frankly, I'm still quaking from the Jan. 17 temblor, and, as a daily reminder of that lovely event, I only have to look around my house, which still has a fair amount of damage that hasn't been repaired.

My feelings of anxiety were on the mark: "Earthquake!" starts off with scary images of the 1933 Long Beach quake and a voice-over from a survivor, then launches into a jarring series of jump cuts of the Northridge disaster.

Nor is this confined to the intro: Frightful scenes of death, injury and massive destruction are shown over and over again throughout the hourlong program.

The continuing pounding of these images undermines the "effort to share important new information which has been uncovered since the Northridge quake." Done in by its own graphics, this self-described attempt to "empower viewers with the latest essential earthquake safety tips" will probably find a far smaller audience left by the last segment, which, ironically, is a decent safety primer with some useful material.

And that's too bad, because "Earthquake!" is a much-needed reminder that there are faults all over the Southland, that we live in what one seismologist calls an "active phase in earthquake history" and that the only thing we do know is that we have to prepare as best we can for the inevitable mess.

The information in "Earthquake! What We Know Now" is vital. Ignore the messenger, learn from the message.

* "Earthquake! What We Know Now" airs at 9 tonight on KCAL-TV Channel 9 and repeats at 10 p.m. Sunday.

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