By coincidence more unfortunate than uncanny, another new public TV series premiering tonight, "Media Probes," contains a sequence on how pop music is mixed in a studio almost identical to one on "3-2-1 Contact." Without making a moral judgment about the ethics of "producing" music as opposed to actually making it, both segments prove that the process is as visually fascinating as watching soup cool.
Like "Contact," "Media Probes" -- probably the most off-putting title for a series since "Mr. T and Tina" -- was produced not in the spirit of the Fairness Doctrine, the Squareness Doctrine or the Judeo-Christian Ethic but according to the Zip Code.This is the TV theory that says give the viewer a little bit of this and then, zip, get on quickly to a little bit of that. Viewers are assumed to have the attention spans of hummingbirds.
"Soundaround," the first program in this series -- at 8 on Channel 26 -- supposedly explores auditory stimuli in our sensory environment, to put it as merrily as possible. An interview with the president of Muzak is the high point of this exploration; his talk of how Muzak is scientifically programmed along an "ascending scale of stimulus value" and "mood-progression" could probably chill even Orwell.
But then, zip, that subject is dropped and suddenly we're listening to a woman who makes shrieking, freaking folk sounds from another culture. Writer-host Tony Kahn and director-editor Michael Lemle have made "Media Probes" so slick it slides right off the screen and onto the floor.