Picks and Pans Review: Murrow

updated 01/20/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/20/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

HBO (Sun., Jan. 19, 8 p.m. ET)


I'm not old enough to remember watching or listening to Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965) broadcasting the news. So maybe my impressive impression of him is the product of his legend. Maybe he really was as dull as the Murrow we see in this HBO movie. But I doubt it. I do know that World War II, the London blitz and McCarthyism were not dull—and that's the way they too come off in Murrow. You see only snippets of the man reporting his big stories. Then you see him marinating in corporate squabbles that remain confusing and uninteresting since they're never explained. In the end, only the clips from old commercials—grating and jingly though they were—are entertaining. Daniel J. (Hill Street Blues) Travanti in the title role does little to add life to his bigger-than-life character; he portrays Murrow's habits and tics (smoking, coughing, jiggling his foot) while making his lines about freedom and truth sound insufferably haughty. Dabney Coleman gives as much grit and guts as possible to his role as a Buffalo Bill Paley, CBS chairman. Edward Herrmann plays Murrow ally Fred Friendly as if he were FDR. And Robert Vaughn plays FDR as if he were a senile Napoleon Solo. But the fact that Murrow and his piece of history remain lifeless and untouched in a dusty glass case is not the fault of the cast but of the amateurish script and direction. How much better it would have been to see the real Murrow reporting the real news. CBS should take the hint and make that show.

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