Oh gee, another rave review of another Perry Como Christmas special. Does nothing ever change? Well actually, just about everything does change but the reliability of Perry Como's Christmas specials. "Perry Como's Christmas in Hawaii," the ABC special that answers the question "Where will Perry be spending Christmas this year, pray tell?" and that airs at 10 tonight on Channel 7, is, if anything, even better than these things usually are!
Honest! I wouldn't lie about a Perry Como Christmas special! An Andy Williams Christmas special would, of course, be something else again.
Here's Perry on the beach singing "Mele Kalikimakikahini," or something like that. Here's Perry on a horse-drawn cart singing "Hay Ride" instead of "Sleigh Ride." Here's Perry and Marie Osmond singing "Far Away Places." Here's Perry bumping into Burt Reynolds, who during his entire guest appearance never has to budge from a comfily horizontal position.
"Speaking of half-asleep, how's your career going these days?" Burt asks Perry. Perry's so good about taking these ribs. Marie Osmond tells him, "In between naps, you must read a lot." Perry tells Marie that deep-sea fishing is "what I do for excitement" and they spend four or five hours sitting on a burning deck.
Blissfully unbestirred and borderline Comotose though the special may seem, it's all pretty cheerfully adroit. It fact, it is nothing less than a glisteningly pretty picture-post-card production whose video photography verges on the magnificent. This isn't the Hawaii tourists never see. It's the dream-Hawaii tourists think exists only in the movies and in Perry Como specials.
Also, there are cute Hawaiian kids and boisterous Hawaiian fire dancers (better not get too close to Perry there, boys) and majestic settings for the Christmas carols and Perry's traditional closing "Ave Maria." Don Mischer, the producer and director, did Perry and himself proud. Buz Kohan wrote the buttered croissant of a script.
The only discouraging thing about the special is where ABC put it. This is a family show that ought to have aired at 8 o'clock Sunday night, not in the 10 p.m. Saturday White Elephants' Burial Ground. ABC's network-wide death wish really is approaching the pestilential point.
Como, one of America's few surviving crooners, has withstood plenty of slings and arrows and comedians' cracks about his studied lethargy, but he is also a living demonstration of how to wear well on television. This is his 37th year in TV, yet he doesn't leap forward to take bows for the longevity, nor prattle on gushily about the glories of show business. Perry Como on tonight's special does what Perry Como has always done: He makes even making-it-look-easy look easy. '60 Minutes'
"60 Minutes" scratches the surface of an intriguing idea during this week's broadcast, tomorrow night at 7 on Channel 9, and then steps back smugly to congratulate itself prematurely on such bold perspicacity. A segment called "Ronald Reagan: The Movie" explores a Berkeley professor's notion that President Reagan may fail to grasp the distinction between reality and the mythology of old Hollywood movies he either appeared in or once saw.
The key examples, most of them previously reported, include one of Reagan's pet stories: a valorous moment of military glory involving a ball-turret gunner trapped in a doomed B17 during World War II and the Congressional Medal of Honor awarded posthumously to his commanding officer, who went down with the plane. Apparently, it never happened, except in "A Wing and a Prayer," a 1944 war movie starring Dana Andrews and Don Ameche.
Another wartime anecdote Reagan quotes is from "The Bridges at Toko-Ri," an attribution he acknowledges in the first clip, but then, as he repeats the story at various functions, he begins to quote it as if it were fact. The story involves an admiral allegedly standing on a deck (though in the movie clip, he's sitting, and it's Fredric March) and asking, "Where do we find such men?"
The essence of the turret-gunner story was also used recently by Steven Spielberg on "The Mission," an episode of NBC's "Amazing Stories." Morley Safer, who had a very easy assignment with this piece, doesn't quite articulate the pivotal point concerning Reagan and his own amazing stories: Does it really matter if they are true, when they are always told for effect and when everybody knows Mr. Reagan came out of Hollywood and its myth-making tradition?
The smug Berkeley professor doesn't appear to have an answer. When you get right down to it, he doesn't appear to have much of a question, either. 'Watch on Washington'
A public-affairs series about American political issues that uses as its musical theme "The Great Gate at Kiev" from Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" might appear to be the work of hapless bunglers, but "Watch on Washington," which Channel 26, poor chaps, will air at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, seems more the work of doltish bunglers.
Aspiring perhaps to qualify as an "Entertainment Tonight" of political trivia, the first program in the series tries to take all the sauce and sizzle out of such volatile topics as toxic waste and Attorney General Edwin Meese's curious interpretations of the U.S. Constitution. Program host and producer John Hamilton, who smirks and bubbles as if he were Bert Parks at a beauty pageant, grabs Meese for a quick and ludicrously superficial curb-side chat just before Meese ducks into his waiting limo.
Meese's seeming disregard for civil rights is treated as just another funsy Washington cocktail topic; oh, that Ed! The first piece on the show, ostensibly about toxic waste, centers on a Time columnist miffed that property he wanted to purchase in New Jersey had become polluted. Pollution? In New Jersey? They can't be serious! A closing piece on political wives holds up Tipper Gore's howler of a crusade against dirty rock lyrics as "a successful effort" by a model congressional spouse.
Everyone associated with this expendable clunker really ought to be asking himself what on earth he thought he was contributing to television's already overflowing public affairs stew. Perhaps the problem that this program seeks to remedy is an imagined excess of content and relevance on the other shows.
"Watch on Washington" is offensive from first blush, a word used advisedly, because a shouting announcer tells us it is "brought to you by the Prudential, offering you a full range of financial services!" That seems to exceed the already too-liberal guidelines for a public TV funding acknowledgment and yesterday, questioned about this, WETA program director Joyce Campbell said she agreed and that the producers will be instructed to change the wording from now on to the standard "made possible by." The slogans apparently can stay.
Hamilton Productions meant this program for commercial stations, it seems, presumably ones that would play it at, say, 6:30 on a Saturday morning. No wait -- make that 6:30 on a Saturday morning in 1958. 'Alas Smith and Jones'
When British humor is bad, it is probably the worst in the world. Indeed, it is probably the worst in this solar system. Indeed, it may in fact constitute an abomination upon the soul of humanity, but then again, maybe not. Maybe it's just a load of old rubbish. Or new rubbish, at least nominally, in the case of "Alas Smith and Jones," a 1983 BBC series (BBC-2, actually) being imported by the Arts and Entertainment cable network and premiering there tomorrow night at 8.
Mel Smith, the fat one, and Griff Rhys Jones, the one who looks like an uncharacteristically kempt Bob Geldof, bound onto a stage and proceed to zany it up, interspersing filmed parodies and spoofs with taped comic conversations, each lad in profile against a blank background and muttering sometimes indecipherably. Where their comic ideas show promise, they also tend to slip around on feet of faulty execution. Some bits on the first show, like a shouting "News for the Elderly" and a samurai "Young Executive of the Year," look cribbed from the original run of "Saturday Night Live."
Not nearly so audacious and cheeky as the old "Monty Python," yet not nearly so bourgeois-bawdy as the irresistible "Benny Hill," "Smith and Jones" occupy a comic netherland somewhere uneasily in between. Their mastery of double-entendre in a chat about sperm banks is cheering, but a sketch about unintelligible underworld argot seems to go on forever, and the coy British cuteness threatens at times to sink the whole frigate.
There is here and there the wayward tasteless note, but tastelessness is a tiny matter when compared to inventiveness and wit, except that with "Alas Smith and Jones," inventiveness and wit turn out to be tiny matters too. "Alas" and alack for a lack of laughs.