"Goldie and Kids . . . Listen to Us," an ABC special at 8 tonight on Channel 7, gobbles up the week's honors for icky-poo in a matter of minutes. The combination of Goldie Hawn, Barry Manilow and, as a net- TV Preview work press release puts it, "12 profoundly honest kids" sounds lethal and is. The needle on the sensitivity meter is pinned at once and all but begs for mercy.
The format for the program, produced and directed by Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion and written by Buz Kohan, has that perky little pixie Ms. Hawn chatting about life and love and even her own divorce with a roomful of kids, with the discussions melting off into misty musical numbers like Manilow's excruciatingly self-pitying "Sunday Father." They say the imported Hungarian song "Gloomy Sunday" inspired suicides in the '30s; it was a picker-upper compared with this. But then, Manilow hardly has a ditty in his repertoire that doesn't induce wayward thoughts of "goodbye, cruel world."
Those 12 "profoundly honest" kids, meanwhile, project, phrase and orate suspiciously like 12 profoundly professional actors, but there is one moment that seems startlingly genuine. A little boy named Chez Lister says his favorite song is George Benson's "The Greatest Love of All" and then proceeds to sing it, a cappella, hauntingly enough to elicit tears from Hawn.
The song's sentiment--that the greatest love of all is the love a person has for himself--sounds like me-decadence, really, but the fact that it is being sung by a young black boy transforms it into something else, something moving. The performance becomes a dramatic new demonstration of how banal sentiment can take on therapeutic importance in a person's life. Of course when the show slogs back to the simpering and imbecilic Manilow, we are reminded that the appeal of some banalities remains beyond all comprehension.