"On Top All Over the World" isn't designed, it turns out, to detail fads and fancies in other countries, only to spotlight those exported by America. "The United States is on top with the most advanced communications systems in the world," blares the announcer, not long after committing the whopper that foreign TV producers "wish they had our flair for producing bold new shows."
Yes, they must be sick with envy over "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes," "People Do the Craziest Things" and, come to think of it, "On Top All Over the World," which premieres as a slowly deflating two-hour gas bag at 8 tonight on Channel 20.
Stitched together from random interviews -- some shot on the run at Hollywood premieres and parties -- music videos, and pap padding, and mysteriously hosted by "A-Team" creator Stephen J. Cannell and actress Morgan Brittany, "On Top" flits from country to country exposing some foreign TV material that is fun to see. A wry Swedish life insurance commercial, for example, features a man, a woman, a tent and a crashing plane. But we are dragged through much more that is of scant interest. Blips, blurts, bleeps; it all skitters by at a frantic pandering pace, terrified we might just have had enough by the time the next commercial break comes around.
What you get the most of is sheer screaming hype. "It's glamorous, it's excitement, it's pure magic!" yelps the announcer at the onset, or rather the outset. He promises "a daring probe" of a lurid Japanese TV show ("Torture," featuring pigs and girls in bikinis) and an "exclusive, action-packed journey around the globe." Later we are teased with the prospect of "Joan Collins as you've never seen her before." Come on, we've seen her every way imaginable. Turns out what we see is Joan getting a drink thrown in her face in a British commercial.
Nonstop hype continues. In Australia, folks watch "one of America's most popular shows, 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,' " which just happens to come from the same production company as "On Top." Robert Wagner says of the canceled "Hart to Hart," "There was a lot of love in the show." Producer Menahem Golan operates out of "this dazzling Hollywood location," says the announcer, over a shot of a drab Los Angeles high-rise. And Jack Valenti, not exactly the master of understatement, calls video piracy "a viral contagion . . . a cancer in the belly of our business."
Attempts to show TV programs of Italy, Malaysia, Japan and other countries are somewhat hampered by the fact that often the producers merely aimed a video camera at the various TV screens, producing an image marred by a debilitating flicker. "On Top All Over the World" aspires only to be trash, yet the best it can be called is junk.