Much television programming only lacks any vestige of esthetic identity, it also fails to meet minimal criteria for simple, dumb diversion. Essentially, it is not entertainment but merchandise-cold and lowly.
When it comes to something like ABC's film "Beach Patrol," at 8 tonight on Channel 7, however, even "merchandise" is too genteel a term. There really isn't a classification nondescript enough for shows like this one, a series pilot about a quintet of tanned androids who zip around all day in dune buggies and chase listless miscreants into the surf.
The beach patrollers divide into teams; a pretty Farrah-face named Christie DeLisle rides around with a lunkish Marlboro Man named Richard Hill. They have witty exchanges, too. She says, "Sorry," and he says, "No sweat." And when he is hit by a bullet meant for her, she says, "I'm sorry," and he says, "Hey-forget it, will ya?"
Producers Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, who have put as much Spam on the banquet table of American television as anybody, thoughtfully insert a statuesque blonde in a bikini-and on roller skates, yet-early in the program to provoke visual interest. Indeed, the cheap chases and lame comic relief that make up the rest of the 90 minutes constitute nothing more than a rude interruption of that scene.
"Beach Patrol" will be followed at 9:30 by another 90-minute ABC pilot, "Samurai," which the network summarizes like this: "When a land-grabbing tycoon threatens San Francisco with a machine that causes earthquakes, Lee Cantrell, a young assistant district attorney, calls upon his skills in the martial arts. . ."
On May 11, ABC will offer another such double feature. First, "Power Man": "An incredible accident transforms handsome Chris Darrow into a human powerhouse, and his carefree existence as a stunt pilot is changed into a life charged with superhuman strength and tremendous danger."
Then, "Night Rider," in which "a mysterious masked horseman returns to Virginia City to avenge the murders of his parents and sister who were killed by cutthroat outlaws 15 years earlier."
Let us remember all these programs the next time a network executive proclaims that America has the greatest television system in the world. We risk becoming the most over-entertained under-entertained nation, on earth.
'Generation on the Wind'
If people cringe at the mention of the word "documentary," it is because of films like "Generation on the Wind," the diary of a windmill and the spoiled brats who built it, to be seen on Channel 26 and other PBS stations-where else-at 10 tonight.
The island of Cutty Hunk, we are told in the dusky, musky narration, is 14 miles from the coast of New England. And, conversely the coast of New England-we are told a few moments later-is 14 miles from Cutty Hunk. Ah, Wilderness!
And on that island a bunch of guys got together in a spirit of ecological righteousness and vicarious blue collarism and built themselves a windmill that generates a small amount of electricity. This took two years, and the film records their every yank, chat and heave-ho, inch by inch, nail by nail. Director and editor David A. Vassar truly knows how to emphasize the pain in "painstaking."
Richard Reiter's score at elast eschews the artsy piccolo tweets one usually encounters on such projects, and opening scenes of the island itself are of the handsome sort usually relegated to backdrops for beer, perfume, and radio station ads.
But the event being documented is of questionable worth, and the reverential tone becomes a drone. By the time a scrawl on a rock tells us we have reached the "272nd day," "Generation on the Wind" has long since run out of steam.