When a suspect asks "What is the point?" and James Earl Jones answers, with sibilant emphasis on each syllable, "Juss-Tiss," you know it's the law talking. Without Jones, "Paris," premiering on CBS (Channel 9) at 10 tonight, would be just another cop show. With him, there's at least a steady flow of pure electricity.
Jones plays captain of detectives Woodrow Paris, puncher of punching bags, muncher of peanuts, devoted husband and even more devoted crimestopper. As written by Steven Bochko, the character stops well short of being idealized into sainthood, however, and Jones lets every rumple and wrinkle show, so that we get a genuine sort of a guy and not the usual vague TV composite.
Paris is allowed the luxury of a wife, usually denied heroes in shows like this, and some of the best scenes are between Jones and Lee Chamberlin as Barbara Paris, spouse and nurse. One night in the bedroom, after a day of heavy flak from politicos, Mrs. Paris, in bed, asks, "Does the condemned man have a last wish?" and Mr. Paris replies, "He certainly does."
There's an honest, wholesome sort of sexuality between them, rare for these little TV fictions, but the opener has its sensational elements as well, since wife-beating and covert lesbianism figure in the plot. Naturally, Paris pegs the killer of a councilman's wife in the first 15 minutes, as will most viewers, but there is borderline fascination in watching Jones sleuth it out and ward off gremlins within the system.
Not all the complications come from the chief of police. A young black officer tells Paris that other blacks in the department are "looking to you" to be their unquestioning champion. "I'm not in this business to make your job easier," he tells them.
It may not be staggering realism, but this MTM production, directed by Jackie Cooper, has the same nonpreachy punch that makes such other MTM shows as "Lou Grant" and "The White Shadow" on occasion very, very good and almost always worth watching. "Paris" won't waste anyone's time, not even that of an actor who has proven himself in far loftier and more demanding roles. 'Big Shamus, Little Shamus'
"Big Shamus, Little Shamus" gets a big no, little no. But definitely a no. And it's something of a shame, because the CBS crime-drama (or whatever it is) series, premiering at 9 to night on Channel 9, features a bright and redoubtable kid actor named Doug McKeon, who is precocious enough to be interesting without being frightening.
Hulky Brian Dennehy plays his divorced pop. supposedly a house detective at an Atlantic City hotel, but the premiere is a hopelessly lifeless unmystery about a singler almost conked with a spotlight. The script and direction are about as buoyant as the pyramids, and the dialogue is thick with icky now-talk like "Maybe he needs his own space" and "What are you trying to do, lay a guilt trip on me?"
The pilot for "Shamus," scrapped by CBS, benefited from many more Atlantic City exteriors (the premiere is mostly tax old L.A.) and stressed the father-son relationship over the mystery plot. Thus the program has a nonentity. It hasn't a chance in the world. 'The Kid From Left Field';
"The Kid From Left Field," a two-hour NBC movie Sunday night at 8 on Channel 4, proves that young Gary Coleman of "Different Strokes" can do more than spout smart-alecky one-liners and make faces. While he may be a certified national wonder, his little 11-year-old shoulders can't carry a film for which no one bothered to write a script and the style of direction is early catnap.
A remake of a 1953 Dan Dailey comedy, "Kid" fantasizes a 10-year- old hero who comes to the rescue of the fumble-bumbling San Diego Padres and turns them into a winning ball club. Coleman's pep talks probably could make champs of the Mets or the Dodgers as well, but they're all the pep the film has.
There is no point in listing credits -- except for costar Robert Gulliaume as Coleman's down-at-the-heels dad -- because no credit is due. Instead of constructing a vehicle designed to display the amazing talents of this youngster while he's at his winning, naturalistic peak, everyone involved elected to make do with a slovenly and underwritten bore. 'Connections'
There's this dreadful little man and he won't shut up. He talks and talks and talks until his words sound like the clicks of a metronome. Who gave him a microphone? Who gave him a television series?
The BBC, that's who, and now James Burke's infernal 'Connections' has been imported, one year after its British telecast, for showing here by public television (natch). The first of 10 hours airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on Channel 26.
Burke has all these theories, see; about humanity and technology; the first program is called "The Trigger Effect," and after around 45 minutes of pixilated digression, Burke states it thus: "An invention acts rather like a trigger."
The first half concentrates on the New York blackout of 1965 and how it proves we are dependent on our technology, except that Burke never say "we." He always says "you." He's like a nagging auntie, and he heaves the last straw when he visits a farm to demand of us, "Can you slaughter and bleed and butcher an animal? Can you tell the difference between an ear of corn and a geranium seed?"
He's all swash in lavish illustration, bouncing from New York to the Nile to prove a lot of points that boil down to truisms or foolishness. Burke lets us see the negative side of British verbal dexterity; here is the Godzilla of demonic elocution.
He can use "or is it" and "and yet" in the same sentence, and he is capable of such profundities as, "At no time did an invention come out of thin air."
To fill out the hour, WQED in Pittsburgh dropped a bundle of expensive host E.G. Marshall and a few paeans to technology from guest experts, who all declare that we are in complete control of it; one wonders whether they got wind of Three Mile Island. There's something very spooky about the fact that his hymn to machines has been underwritten by the telephone company, custodians of one of the most dubious boons ever to infect the planet Earth.
"Connections" makes you want to go out and smash a telephone and a television camera, in that order -- or at least kick the fridge.