PBS offers a new series this week that will be fun to watch and an absolute joy to tape and save.
Rearely does television sound such a stage-four VCR alert. Stock up on cassettes. You'll need eight hours' worth over the next eight weeks.
The series is called -- and is about -- "Television."
It is, for the most part, an unabashed ode to the tube, filled with clips of the golden moments from television.
Viewers looking for analysis and criticism of the medium largely will be disappointed, although part eight does raise questions about television's social responsibility.
Like many PBS programs, this one is an import, at least in part. Granada Television of England produced "Television." But executive producer Jack Sameth took the 13-hour British piece, cut it up, and added hours of American material -- 65 percent of the series is said to be fresh.
The series, produced by WNET in New York and KCET in Los Angeles, begins Monday at 8 on Channel 26 and at 10 on Maryland Public Television stations.
The series is hosted by Edwin Newman, retired NBC newsman and author of Strictly Speaking and A Civil Tongue.
In the opening, overview segment, "Live Pictures," he frames the subject: Television is on in the average American household for more than seven hours a day. It has been, he says, the place we turn to in times of national celebration and crisis. The segment is rich in crisply edited replays of some of TV's greatest moments, and the series promises even more riches in following weeks.
Next week the subject is "Comedy," followed by "The Race for Television," dealing with its invention; "The power of Pictures" and "Point of View," both concerned with TV journalism; "Drama," "Fun and Games" and the inquiring "The Promise of Television."
The series, sponsored by MCI, "Pulls together a systematic view of what TV has done -- and what it has failed to do," said Newman, introducing the series recently in Los Angeles. Television, he said, "killed afternoon newspapers and made wigs a growth industry."
And, playing to his specialty, Newman said the medium has added to the language, giving us such terms as: live, taped, taped before a live audience, talk show, sitcom, hosting and guesting.
"The series has bits of history that will bring on sadness and wonder," he said.
"I count myself fortunate to have worked on TV," he said, "and it may be more fortunate still to have seen it."