Networks are on the lookout for cheap programming, but this is ridiculous. Or to be more specific, these are ridiculous: "The 'I Love TV' Test," tonight at 8 on Channel 7, and "Hollywood's Private Home Movies," airing Sunday at 8 on Channel 7. The programs are from TV Previews different producers, but both suffer from a common viral tackiness and both traffic in trivium effluvium, the kind of stuff on which TV is choking already.
And both, by some wild coincidence, are from ABC.
Ever since NBC started earning big ratings with pasted-together specials on Hollywood "Bloopers" and highly entertaining specials on "Television's Greatest Comercials," networks have been looking for other ways to fill prime-time hours without having to shell out big bundles on production. A new form was born: Snippet Television.
ABC scored very high in recent ratings with a special called "Life's Most Embarrassing Moments," clearly modeled on the NBC "Bloopers" shows and a grossly irritating hour. After every single film clip (goofs and slip-ups from TV shows and movies, mostly), the director cut to the studio audience for a hefty round of artificially augmented applause. There was more applause on this show than there were embarrassing moments.
But if that program was beset with ersatz hooplah, "The 'I Love TV' Test" and the "Private Home Movies" are stumblingly drunk on the elixir of hype.
Ghastly Gavin MacLeod, fresh as a canned sardine from ABC's "Love Boat," hosts tonight's "Test," admitting up top that it offers no prizes, "Just an hour's worth of fun for the whole family"--a statement that should open him to litigation from everyone in America. MacLeod reads a dozen questions about TV programs, illustrated with clips and guest appearances by such as William Shatner and Jamie Farr, and the home audience is invited to join the studio audience in pointlessly guessing along.
Naturally there are no serious questions about the television business--not even, say, "In what year did Congress pass the Communications Act of 1934?" Instead, MacLeod asks toughies like, who plays the father on ABC's "Happy Days"? (Tom Bosley, of course); and, who was the voice of Charlie on ABC's "Charlie's Angels"? (John Forsythe, of ABC's "Dynasty"). Among the other ABC shows generously plugged is, as MacLeod puts it, the "new hit series, 'Too Close for Comfort' " which, oops, ABC just canceled. Poor old Robert Mitchum is trotted out to take yet another bow for ABC's "Winds of War"; so much for his claim to maverick integrity.
"The 'I Love TV' Test" is a Marty Pasetta Production, Marty Pasetta the executive producer and director. Names like Marty Pasetta Jr. and Debbie Pasetta pop up in the credits, too. Pasetta directs the Oscars each year, and maybe this year's Oscar show was as slipshod as it was partly because Marty had his mind on such imbecilic digressions as this special.
Easily as dreadful is "Hollywood's Private Home Movies," a Dick Clark production. Bill Cosby tore himself away from the cola, pudding and computer commercials long enough to mumble and fumble his way through this special as host. He may never have been less funny, though that's a tough call.
The idea is to unreel home movies shot by and of the stars. Alas, stars tend to be no more proficient at shooting home movies than your average Uncle Harry. The likes of Burt Reynolds, Jayne Mansfield and a 2-year-old Brooke Shields flicker by, but so quickly that some clips are of no greater duration on the program than they were in the opening "tease" that precedes the show itself. In other words, we are shown a short clip of Spencer Tracy in the tease, and then when the show gets around to Tracy, the same clip shows up. And that's that.
While glimpses of Elvis Presley's wedding and some Don Rickles and Bob Newhart footage prove mildly amusing, the longer segments on the show are devoted to such collector's items as John Ritter's trip to Taiwan ("Here's Nancy feeding the fish," John narrates) and Zsa Zsa Gabor's trip to South Africa ("Here I am in a big hat," says Zsa), plus Anson Williams' baby pictures and Tatum O'Neal washing her Porsche. And say, here's Constant Viewer, turning off both "Private Movies" and "The 'I Love TV' Test" and going out to jog because anything is better than watching this.