Were someone to describe "Rock and Roll: The First 25 Years" (tonight at 8 on Channel 9) from the stage at Woodstock, the operative word would be "bummer."
This one-hour show, the opener in a six-part series, is nothing more than rehashed promo clips, film clips, television clips, most of them already overexposed, strung together with little thought of continuity or sense. Tonight's "theme" is "The Groups." A narrator solemnly intones: "from the '50s to the present, groups have played an important part in every stage of rock development."
The Beatles? There are about 90 seconds of them at the beginning, a scene from "Hard Day's Night" in which they look the way most of us remember them. Ah, but we were so much younger then.
Then it's on to mid-'70s Bee Gees, passed off as having been in the vanguard of the British Invasion: They get about three minutes. Then on to the Who, in a surprisingly mellow clip (of a James Brown song, no less) that is passed off as being from Woodstock, where they allegedly are making their American debut. Producer Jerry Harrison must have them confused with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, but that's natural; people are always getting those two groups mixed up.
The group that gets the most exposure is the Doobie Brothers, "the elder statesmen of rock groups," according to the script. Oh, incidentally, the show is hosted by Doobies Patrick Simmons and Michael McDonald. It's a tossup which are less offensive: their bland comments or Robert W. Morgan's pompous commentary, which often intrudes on the songs. At least Don Kirshner knows when to shut up.
Great segues: Queen (circa "Bohemian Rhapsody") to early '60s Temptations and Miracles to the Beach Boys, who only sound eternal. Say, who wrote this script, Kit Lambert? There's no overview, no underview, no view at all: Most of the material is lip-and-hip synched promotion, and much of the information is woefully off the mark (e.g., "Today's top rock groups like the Ramones are multimillion-dollar enterprises," which may come as a shock to Joey and the boys).
Other featured groups include Tom Petty, Quarterflash, the Police, Fleetwood Mac (a promo for "Tusk," or "Tush" as it was called by insiders after they fell flat on it), secondhand Platters and Coasters, the Lettermen (the Lettermen?) and the Pretenders singing "Message of Love" with its ironic lyric "We'll be together always this way": the bassist was fired and the guitarist (James Honeyman-Scott) died of undisclosed causes several weeks ago. The Dregs make an uncredited appearance at the end, with Simmons as guest vocalist.
"The First 25 Years"? History? Sense? Excitement? What you haven't seen before, you've heard before. You'd do better to catch any video show at the 9:30 club, where there's a sense of momentum and energy totally lacking in this production. This is rock television at its worst.