Picks and Pans Main: Tube
TV does have an unerring knack for unearthing dead trends from the graves they deserved. Now we are seeing an irritating rash of shows that combine the worst of the old Let's Make a Deal and Candid Camera. They make their ratings by making fools and laughingstocks of people and by evoking titters with expletives bleeped. These three new shows—NBC's TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes and People Are Funny and ABC's Foul-Ups, Bleeps & Blunders—would need to skip a grade or two to be called sophomoric.
As if that were not enough, the networks also have come up with specials in the same genre. One of them, NBC's Homemade Comedy Special earlier this month, featured videos made by real people doing takeoffs of commercials (lizard aerobics) and news parodies ("Respiratory disease hits L.A.—phlegm at 11"). Two things set it apart from the regular shows: First, the subjects appeared voluntarily; they weren't accosted on the street to be laughed at via hidden camera. Second, they're funny. There wasn't enough good material to fill an hour, but there were splashes of humor from these amateurs that were fresher than much of what's coming out of Hollywood. On another special this month, ABC's People Do the Craziest Things, women were exposed as liars about their weight (one said she weighed 175, but the hidden scale said 209—a terribly cheap trick). The producers tried, ludicrously, to legitimize it by bringing on a psychologist to explain that "We don't fib...it's our suppressed desire to be the people we were meant to be." What did set this show above the others, though, was host Bert Convy's efforts to treat his victims with some respect. Men were persuaded to give the shirts off their backs to a poor fellow who had stained his own shirt before a job interview. Convy lionized them. It proves, he said, that "there are some really wonderful people out there." What a desperate search for heroes it is.
Below are reviews of the three titter-tale shows, well into their seasons, and of one more that reflects the country in a better light, CBS' American Parade. Otherwise, it's a week of reruns as TV waits for the May sweeps.