Picks and Pans Review: Arthur the King

UPDATED 04/29/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 04/29/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

CBS (Friday, April 26, 8 p.m. ET)

If you watch enough TV, it's hard not to develop a conspiracy theory about the networks. When you see a truly terrible show and try to figure out how it ever got on the air, you begin to wonder whether it was put there to make the rest of TV, even the most mediocre, look good. Arthur the King could make a morning farm show look like entertainment. Dyan Cannon—who for some reason is using a sickening, Romper Room voice—visits Stonehenge and falls in a hole, into the cave where Merlin (Edward Woodward) and his lover, Niniane (Lucy Gutteridge), have been trapped for centuries. Through Merlin's unimpressive magic, they watch Camelot. There Malcolm McDowell plays King Arthur much as he played Caligula in that disgusting movie, and Candice Bergen as the evil Morgan le Fay wears a hairdo so outrageous she makes Cyndi Lauper look like a Seventeen cover girl. This Camelot looks less like the Kennedy years and more like the Shah's. Yet midst all the evil doings, there's a certain casualness here; King Arthur calls his queen "Gwen." It's just the story of Gwen, Lance and Artie. To break up the confusion and boredom, the scene shifts occasionally back to the cave where Dyan is simpering still. "I mean," she sighs, "if we can't build castles in the clouds, how can we endure this life?" Gag. If this thing is trying to be camp, it lacks the humor and finesse to pull it off. Near the end King Artie says: "Merlin, can you make me a potion to remove the memories, the bad memories?" Merlin, can you do the same for the viewing audience?

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