See--the test-tube triplets! See--Joan Collins give her 999th interview! See--the battered housewife who shot her husband! Wonder--what the heck NBC thinks it is doing with "Personal & Confiden- TV Preview tial," a pilot daytime programming project getting a five-part tryout this week, starting this afternoon at 3, on Channel 4.
The NBC daytime schedule is the Death Valley of network broadcasting; its ratings are rock-bottom even by NBC standards. So anybody with half a concept may find NBC a receptive customer. "Personal & Confidential" is two halves of two different concepts joined together: a fan magazine of the air in which already overinterviewed demi-stars are put through insipid paces yet again, and a tabloid of the air in which stories better left to journalists are wrapped up in neat packages by unseemly Hollywood slicksters.
On the first of the five hour-long shows today, the program hops without a thought from a frothy feature on photographers Ron and Betty Galella to the case of a Charleston, S.C., woman who shot her husband after he repeatedly beat her, and who tells her story sobbingly to the camera.
The footage of the woman recalling the incident and the events leading up to it is gripping, though radically edited; in fact, it appears that two different tellings of the story were edited together, since the woman's hairstyle changes back and forth during the course of the segment. But as powerful as the sequence is, it is being offered here as lurid and morbid entertainment.
And it is even handled like a soap opera, in that the outcome of the case is not told, and viewers are advised to tune in tomorrow for more tearfulness and a report on the woman's trial.
In a later segment of the show, one dealing with so-called "sexual enhancement seminars," a man and wife talk on camera to a pair of Palo Alto therapists about the wife's failure to achieve orgasms adequate to the husband's expectations. The husband knew the wife's response was not what it ought to be, he says, "through my experience with other women," which doesn't even cause his wife to blink. "Tomorrow," we are promised, we'll see videotape of "a woman experiencing" enhanced ecstasy.
Celebrities sprinkled through the program include Kenny Rogers, passed off as the greatest humanitarian since Schweitzer; Joan Collins, who says she would like her epitaph to be "She had her cake and ate it too"; Robert Duvall, whose interview would have gone better if it hadn't been shot against hanging plants that distractingly revolve in the background (it begins to look like "The Day of the Triffids"); and the ubiquitous Linda Evans, of whom host Steve Edwards is required to say, "Her beauty goes beyond the lip gloss and mascara. For Linda, that kind of beauty is only skin deep. Linda looks for inner beauty."
The sequence on the test-tube triplets ("a medical shocker!" someone says) is sandwiched between Evans and the Galellas. Edwards quotes from no less a source than the National Enquirer during the segment. We probably don't need a TV version of the National Enquirer, and certainly wouldn't expect it from a major network (or, in this case, a minor network) whose news department, though busy with its own crises at the moment, ought to raise something of a ruckus about this show. It makes "Real People" look like The Times of London.
Another worrisome sign: two of the people on the show's staff are Mary Chancellor, daughter of John, and Kathy Cronkite (seen briefly on camera interviewing Evans), daughter of Walter. These young ladies need stern fatherly talkings-to. "Personal & Confidential" comes from Alan ("That's Incredible!") Landsburg Productions, one of Hollywood's lowlier sleazemongers. NBC bills it as a "magazine for women," which is like pressing a big sloppy grapefruit right in the collective kisser of all of womankind.