No sooner had an FCC task force knocked the networks for poor children's programming than, shazbot, CBS unveiled "Going Places" and NBC, after weeks of delay, announced the premiere of "Hot Hero Sandwich," both ambitious new efforts for young viewers. The timing is coincidental but fortuitous.
"Going Places," an "On the Road" for the young, was shown Tuesday by 166 of the 200 CBS affiliates. A CBS News spokesman says a second show is "in the can" but unless network executives give the high sign, "Going Places" goes nowhere from here.
NBC's, "Hot Hero Sandwich," however, premieres today at noon on Channel 4 (and 185 of the 216 other NBC stations) and it is going everywhere, including bananas, cocunuts, hog-wild and right through the roof. This sparkling skyrocket constitutes one giant leap for kidkind.
A frantic fact-and-fiction hour, "Sandwich" was created by Bruce and Carole Hart and mixes sketches about the hills and valleys of adolescence -- problems of adjustment, identity, and complexion -- with songs, animation and candid interviews that clinical psychologist Thomas J. Cottle conducts with celebrities. They tell how they made it from 12 to 20 without turning into pillars of salt.
On the first show, Bruce Jenner shows a previously latent credibility when recalling the first time he kissed a girl or how he suffered from dyslexia, a learning disorder, when young. Donna Pescow ("Angie") confesses she hit her mother when mom told her she was getting a divorce. And Erik Estrada remembers a boyhood friend who overdosed on heroin when Estrada was barely into his teens and living in Spanish Harlem.
Preachiness and teachiness are avoided as the program goes from somersaults to handstands to cartwheels with a spectacular battery of video effects. Some 40 hours of editing go into a single one-hour show.
The Harts, married for 16 years, excutive-produce the program, which is shot in New York at Studio 8-H (making it a kind of "Saturday Afternoon Live") but edited in Los Angeles. Bruce says that future programs will bring up such topics as pre-marital sex, masturbation, "and nuclear power as well." Both say they hope youngsters and parents will watch the show together, a wish that isn't as fanciful as it might sound.
"We found that 38 percent of the audience at that time on a Saturday are adults," says Carole. "The network categorizes them as 'passive' because they don't necessarily control the set (meaning, kids pick the programs), but we think we can get their attention. Because of the pacing, the animation and the high-energy comedy, even 6-year-olds can have a good time with it."
The high-energy comedy is supplied mainly by a stock company of seven likable youngsters who will be premature candidates for cardiac arrest if they don't settle down. An opening sketch on nicknames is a loud mess, but a later one about compassion for parents hums harmoniously. Of the group, a pudgy blonde cupcake named Denny Dillon seems the standout. She'll go far.
Celebrities to be interviewed on future programs include Barbara Walters, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Beverly Sills and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Obviously all systems are go on this ball of fire, and NBC should consider producing more shows than the planned 11 -- unless this is just a face-saving PR project, that is.
What no one wants to say about the show is how much it costs to produce it. "The network has specifically asked us not to discuss it," says producer Howard Malley. "It looks more expensive than it is," says Bruce Hart. "Over $1 million," is all a network spokesman will offer.
And Mary Alice Dwyer, director of children's programs, says from New York, "a lot. So much that that's why we'd rather not say."
In the area of "pro-social" children's programming, NBC and CBS have lagged behind ABC and its "Afterschool Specials." ABC also airs a Sunday morning show, "Kids Are People Too," but its virtue is dubious. The educational value lies primarily in training children how to be noisy and appreciative studio audiences.
Michael Young, the program's host, appears to suffer from a terminal case of ice cubes down the shorts, and the celebrities interviewed usually are plugging ABC shows or talking fan mag drivel.
It is both naive and cynical to think networks want to put on idiotic children's programs. The problem is largely with advertisers who at first flocked to the good-deed shows for their prestige value, then in sizable numbers abandoned them for more cost-effective junk. And so they underwrite hours and hours of crummy, dumb cartoons.
"Hot Hero Sandwich" is another hop, skip and jump in the right direction, and an invigorating one at that. It is also more entertaining than seven out of ten shows in NBC's prime time schedule, suggesting that once the networks and sponsors get kids' TV straightened out, they might pause to remember that adults are people too. 'Love for Rent'
We the television viewers of America deserve a higher form of pandering than "Love for Rent," the ABC Sunday night movie, at 9 on Channel 7, that even as brainless, lurid mellowdrama proves strictly lou-zay.
Comely Anjanette Comer and woebegone Lisa Eilbacher star in the tale of two sisters in lewd L.A. who are shocked out of their skins when customers of the escort service that employs them demand certain extra services.
The audience is baited with threats that the girls will be forced into sex with strangers and a subplot involving a psycho (poor Engene Roche) who wants to whomp hookers. Rhonda Fleming makes a minimal appearance as the owner of the escort operation.
Far seamier than steamy, the movie dawdles pointlessly along between the highlight screams and attacks. Impressionable viewers who see enough of these unsavory TV movies about hookers and rapes must get an awfully morbid idea of what sex is. To watch "Love for Rent" is to be party to an act of communal degradation.