You couldn't mistake the "Body Human" series of specials on CBS for a literal response to that age-old entreaty, "Give it to me straight, Doc." The program takes facts and developments from medical science and hokes them up until they're fit for hype heaven. Tonight's eye-popper, "Breakthrough 2000," beats the drum almost deafeningly on behalf of hospital high tech and the medical profession.
But the program, at 8 on Channel 9, has its legitimately, as well as its hokily, inspirational side, and overlooking the recruitment-poster aspect isn't difficult. Footage ranges from the utterly beguiling -- a very young baby swimming like crazy in a tank of water -- to astounding sights, like improved fetal photography of a human life taking recognizable shape inside a womb, or a bionic hand hooked up to a man whose real hand had been amputated.
The man with the hand has learned how to manipulate its fingers with his mind, but the first time he does it, and he sees the hand coming to life through brain waves transmitted along wires that link it to his arm, he exclaims, "Great day in the morning!" This is not overreaction.
"Breakthrough" deals with new or incipient advances in medical treatments and, like previous specials in the series, concentrates on four case histories. The first involves a New Jersey teen-ager whose soccer career was cut short by a malignant tumor above her knee. In times of lower tech, says narrator Alexander Scourby, the girl would have lost her leg. But doctors are able to insert an artificial, titanium knee joint so the young woman can walk again.
The camera is there when the girl awakes from the operation and the doctor says to her, "Wiggle your toes, sweetie pie."
A young man in Philadelphia has growths on his vocal chords that reduced his voice to a fey whisper and would eventually rob him of his ability to speak. Doctors zap the growths with laser blasts -- smoke comes out of the kid's mouth during the operation -- and soon he is well enough to recite "Annabelle Lee" in manly tones.
To control her severe back pain, a woman in Shreveport, La., would have had to lead a drug-dependent life, but surgeons are able to implant a gizmo in her brain that will monitor and control the pain druglessly. She is awake during surgery as doctors poke around inside her skull.
The mmost futuristic case that of Bunce Piece, the Los Angeles athlete who lost his left hand in a shooting accident. At the UCLA Medical Center he gets an artificial one, something right out of sci-fi, and the film shows him undergoing the training he'll need to operate the hand with his thoughts. There is some fudging about exactly how versatile this hand will be, and there is little footage of it in actual operation, but the wondrousness is still impressive and encouraging.
It may be naively optimistic to think so, but the "Body Human" specials really foster the notion that there are great days in the mornings to come.