Writer Tom Wolfe certainly has provided us with some flashes of insight now and then. But his career often has seemed to be part of the sinister plot by form to replace content on the planet Earth. The last one might have expected from Wolfe's maiden voyage into television is a kicky kinetic surface camouflaging a paltry or empty thesis.
But "Tom Wolfe's Los Angeles," the pilot project for a series shown on Channel 26 and other public TV stations at 9 o'clock tonight, has little in the way of dash or vigor, much less urgency or novelty of viewpoint.
The hour-long film bgins with Wolfe once again celebrating his satorial eccentricity and then taking a helicopter tour of ostentatious celebrity real estate. Subsequently, in a series of inter-linked vignettes, we get a supposedly authentic but frankly fictional tour of Wolfe's L.A., which turns out to be a wan and sunny battleground of hostile but all-knowing ehtnics who spend their lives hookwinking the poor dumb ivory-tower liberals of the world.
This myth of street wisdom as the ultimate enlightenment is already a tired chic cliche of so-called gonzo journalism, and Wolfe, who both "created" and wrote this program, hasn't sparked new life into it. A few episodes have funny moments, but they are clumsily developed, and the hours belongs on videotape, not firm, especially over-exposed film.
"Tom Wolfe's Los Angeles" is inadequate even as an anti-portratit; it's like a cynical Ralph ("Fritz the Cat") Bakeshi cartoon with live actors. All it really has is attitude, and even the attitude seems a little drab.