1978 was almost a no-frills year, but it did have its little luxuries and compensations. One of them was "We Interrupt this Week," a lovably malicious current-events quiz featuring media cut-ups waxing wary, wry and witty about the people and events of the day. This made for a lively, funny and infernally informative show.
Come Sunday, the frill is gone -- but not, as was fered until yesterday, forever. Funding had run out for the series and the towel was all but thrown in when the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), in a rare encouragement of merriment, came up with $100,000 to produce five more shows, to air between Feb. 2 and Mar. 2. The grant was prompted by a letter-writing campaign that produced more than 4,000 pieces of favorable mail within a single week.
In the meantime, host Ned Sherrin and his guests end the first phase with a prolonged bang Sunday night at 10 an Channel 26. "We Interrupt the Year: 1978" is a special one-hour version of this terribly civilized and cheeringly snide game show for adults, spruced up with added tape and film footage of the year's most miscellaneous news events and with a personal appearance by Roddy Llewellyn, the so-so singer who helped keep Princess Margaret up to her tiara in headlines.
After Llewellyn's song, panelist Barbara Howar notes that he didn't seem "such a jurk" to her as the press had portrayed him -- not realizing Llewellyn was at the moment in another room watching the taping. Her apologetic embarrassment at this gaffe is a reminder of what good sport live television used to be.
"Interrupt" turns out to be an ideal way to saunter back through '78 -- it's more of a strafing than a sauntering, actually -- and recall such possibly forgotten tidbits in time as the celebrated snail darter, the dreaded affliction known as "jogger's nipple," the much-debated neutron bomb, the slightly inimitable Tongsun Park, and the false name used on the Quaalude prescription that got poor Peter Bourne into such a pickle.
As on past editions of the show, personalities who had all but worn out their TV welcomes through over or inauspicious exposure emerge as more human and engaging than they do on other shows -- perhaps it's the gush of vulnerability implicit in a flubbed question. Howar, Richard Reeves, and Jeff Greenfield -- none of them any fun at all on other programs -- let enough hairs down to make this a rich and rollicking hour, and the opposing team -- Peter Stone, John Weidman and Linda Blandford -- also contribute generously to the spirit of fun and revenge.
Sherrin presides in top form, nimbly resurrecting, with the help of his writers, such greatest hits of '78 as the discovery of "a new deadly weapon -- a Ford Pinto with Firestone 500 tires" and of a sure way to gain access to Studio 54: "Get a warrant."
"We Interrupt This Week" has been more than a welcome addition to the public television schedule. It's one of the few public TV programs immediately responsive to what is happening in the world -- and for once, we don't mean the Edwardian or Victorian worlds -- and also one of the few whose unpretentiousness is equaled only by its charm.A generous application of perpetuating funds is entirely in order.