"Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Monsters . . . But Were Afraid," tonight at 8 on Channel 9, should hold the attention of young viewers who normally tune in for "The Incredible Hulk" in this time slot. Certainly, for better or worse, this has to be just the cutest little ol' CBS News special ever.
Charles Osgood, the in-house scamp at the least fun-loving of the network news departments, hosts the program, which does offer welcome if fleeting glimpses of such luminous movie monsters of the past as the giant ants of "Them!," the marauding celery stalk played by James Arness in "The Thing," the original and incomparable King Kong, the initially destructive but later reformed "Godzilla" (no less than "king of the monsters," according to original ad copy for the film) and that dauntless sexual overreacher, "The Creature From the Black Lagoon."
Osgood tries to analyze, in a superficial way kids may appreciate, the appeal of monsters over the years. James Warren, the publisher of "Famous Monsters" magazine, says not too profoundly that kids like monsters "because the monsters are larger than life and they have great strength; they can smash down a door, and they can smash down a house."
Producer Joel Heller also takes viewers to the set of a Japanese kiddie TV show, with actors as monsters in big rubber suits tumbling around on a miniature town, and to the North Hollywood "monster plant" run by the enterprising Rick Baker, who obligingly demonstrates his gruesome masks and a magnificent gorilla head (probably from "The Incredible Shrinking Woman") capable not only of expression but of nuance. It's too bad nothing was included of the ingenious werewolf transformation makeup that Baker disciple Rob Bottin did for "The Howling," which still stands as state-of-the-art monstrosity.
The program veers off into tedium when it goes after such alleged real-life monsters as the Loch Ness; the material is too shop-worn to be intriguing. The broadcast is also marred by the fact that one of the longest clips shown is from Walt Disney's "Pete's Dragon," which is nobody's idea of a monster movie, and not much of a Disney movie, either. By sheerest coincidence, no doubt, this is the season that the Disney TV series has moved from NBC to CBS; "Pete's Dragon," now on the pay-TV circuit, will probably show up on CBS sooner or later.
It isn't very encouraging to encounter that old monster cross-promotion on a CBS News production, even a trivial one.