It's a pleasure to watch Mikhail Baryshnikov do anything, but on "Baryshnikov in Hollywood," his CBS special at 10 tonight on Channel 9, there's too much anything and not enough something.
When Baryshnikov does dance on the program, it always seems to be in spurts; producer-director Don Mischer keeps cutting away abruptly to other shots. Doesn't he know that the gratifying thing is to see the fabulously ingratiating Baryshnikov in continuous movement? The program is edited as if to camouflage the shortcomings of a lousy dancer, rather than celebrate the prowess of a magnificent one.
Baryshnikov was in much better hands two years ago: specifically, the producing-directing hands of Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion, who did his first network special, the far superior "Baryshnikov on Broadway," for ABC. Still, the CBS hour is hardly without delights. The guest stars include Dom DeLuise, Shirley MacLaine and Gene Wilder, and much of the choreography is by Hollywood veteran Michael Kidd.
And as always, Baryshnikov proves the prince of good sports. In the opening sequence, he is accosted by DeLuise as a blowhard producer who lures him to the coast. Ambling into the producer's office later, Baryshnikov announces himself to the receptionist, who says into the intercom, "Mr. Monty? Mr. Barry Shnikov here to see you."
The star floats through the hour with the litheness of the gods, and at the very least, the program qualifies as a good-natured romp. Baryshnikov offers whimsical dance versions of "The Sheik," a pirate movie and a Western brawl, and storms the back lot at Universal with gratifying results. The program seems a natural for kids, so its late hour in the schedule seems a poor choice.
There isn't much plucking of the old heartstrings, but in the closing credits, the program is dedicated by Baryshnikov "to James Cagney, with love and affection." And the narrator throughout is that living legend-and-a-half, Orson Welles, whose Mighty-Wurlitzer voice has rarely sounded friendlier. It was an inspiration on the part of writers Buz Kohan and Bob Arnott to have Welles say of the program at its conclusion, "Well, it might not have been 'Citizen Kane,' but all in all, I think it's pretty darn good."