Unnecessarily stuffy and stuffily unnecessary, the CBS News daytime magazine "Up to the Minute" makes a locally delayed debut today at 11 a.m. on Channel 9. It does not bode very well that the first week's shows are arranged to fit the topic "Feminism and Its Effects on Men" and that day one has been dubbed "Aggressive Women: A Turn-on or a Turnoff?"
Titles like that: a turnoff.
"Minute" is the big bowwow production that is to star the four horsemen of "60 Minutes" -- Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Ed Bradley and Harry Reasoner -- each a week at a time. Unfortunately, Reasoner gets the first week, and in the second half of the program, where it is needed most, he fails to contribute any tangible zing.
The program opens with a fairly sprightly film piece in which men about town and in bars are asked how they would react to an "aggressive woman" who propositioned them. One macho swinger says, "I'd be concerned about social diseases."
But then along hunkers Harry to say "Now for some man talk," and the studio chitchat that ensues doesn't just sit there, it lies there. The participants do not seem thoughtfully chosen: the clown boor of tennis, Bobby Riggs, who says, "I like my women to respect me . . . I like to say, 'Let's do this, let's do that,' "; a male psychologist who suggests that a propositioning woman would be likely to break down in tears if rejected (oh?); and, most irrelevantly, Robert Walden, who plays Rossi on the network's "Lou Grant" and who says, "Promiscuity? I tried it. I don't think it's that satisfying."
Through it all, Reasoner looks like he'd love to get back to Lutece for another Sazerac. The star value of names like Reasoner and Wallace may not be worth much if the "60 Minutes" guys view this daytime program as something to be dashed off with as little exertion as possible.
The lack of energy or urgency in the talk-show segments of the first two programs may inspire a new appreciation for the way Phil Donahue has revolutionized the format. Too much attention has been paid to the supposedly salacious content of the Donahue show and not enough to its style; Donahue greatly expanded the variables for talk television, so that viewers are kept entranced and alert. "Donahue" is often a brilliantly modulated hour.
Although there are female producers on "Up to the Minute" (the executive producer is Grace Diekhaus), the enterprise conveys a slack, middle-aged-male mentality, or maybe just a button-down CBS mentality that seems middle-aged and male. A closing word from Bob Keeshan, o.k.a. (once known as) Captain Kangaroo, does anything but exorcise this demon; Keeshan, "discovered" typing behind his desk, comes off like Andy Rooney playing Mister Rogers, and preachy as all get-out.
"Up to the Minute" is by no means up to snuff.