Picks and Pans Review: Phil Donahue Examines the Human Animal

updated 08/11/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/11/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

NBC (Mon.-Fri., Aug. 11-15, 10 p.m. ET)

Imagine Phil Donahue without a studio audience or live guests or phone calls. Five hours of pure Phil. You'd be wiser to leave the matter to your imagination than to watch it. Donahue spends five nights giving you video versions of term papers for health and history classes on love, war and business—ninth-grade term papers, at that, filled with pretentious and simplistic summaries of things we already know. "Why do we make such an agony of love and sex?" Phil asks. "You'd think that after 400,000 years on the planet, we'd have solved our basic problems about love and sex." With that novel question Phil tells us about flirting, our unique human abilities to enjoy sex and fall in love, teen pregnancy, prostitution, impotence—the basic syllabus from his regular show recycled into a prime-time miniseries documentary. Blather, blather, blather. Think I'm being tough on Phil? Well, I am. I'm like the teacher who says to the best student in class, "I'm giving you a C on this paper, Phil, because I know you can do better." I know he can. A dozen times Donahue comes close to suggesting and debating solutions to the problems he drones on about—better sex education for pregnancy-prone teens, better economic protection for the suddenly unemployed in the industrial belt, better child care and so on. But Phil Donahue, of all people, seems afraid of expressing an opinion on prime-time television. By giving us nothing controversial, he gives us nothing compelling to watch. If someone else had made this show, I might have given it a C—. But because it's you, Phil, I'm giving it a grade of: D +

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