Reprinted from yesterday's late editors
Form scored another decisive victory over its usual opponent. Monday night when Baltimore's WJZ-TV premiered its new nightly magazine show, "Evening," a television program as nifty-looking and empitly flavorless as the frozen vegetables you boil in a plastic bag.
WJZ is owned by Westinghouse Broadcasting, which has already begun "Evening" shows at its four other stations. The idea is to put to better use the nightly 7:30 half hour that many stations now squander on clunky-junky game shows and other forms of aggravated frippery. By default at least, "Evening" represents an improvement, and an initiative more stations should take.
In Washington, WJLA's one-year flirtation with the early evening magazine show, "7:30 Live," failed to generate an audience. Studio-bound and loquacious, it seemed like just a morning talk show past its time-slot. To its credit. "Evening" began Monday with a minimum of babble during a striking seven-minute feature on the annual running of the ponies off Chincoteague Island Visually, it was can't-miss stuff.
But then came the "Departments" section, with two-minute tips about food, health and entertainment that provided not one iota of useful information.
Then there was the obligatory resident critic, a frolicsone cut-up named Dennis O'Keefe, whose commentary on "Star Wars" was not only ont he tardy side but riddled with such dubious insights as, "They've got a lot of things in the film."
The show ended with a slickly edited interview with Lily Tomlin intercut with highlights from Tomlin's one woman stage show. Though enjoyable, the segment lacked a special relevance for Baltimore, and though handsomely produced, with snappy graphics and smooth transitions, so did most of "Evening."
Cohosts Linnea Anderson and Dave Sisson are certainly anonymity personified. "They say all the world's a stage" was Anderson's bigh bombshell of the show. Their canned blandness wouldn't matter if there were some tangy contributors with entertaining as well as regional points of view. For now, sappy inanity prevails; the program seems another example of TV's tendency to use information as decoration.
"Evening" is budgeted at $500,000 for the year. Producer Milton Hoffman walked off the show last week, though reportedly not in a huff; the format is so rigid that the show could perhaps be produced by 50 monkeys at 50 computers anyway. It's practically surprise-proof, and that does not make for an enchanted "Evening."