Picks and Pans Review: Tv 101

updated 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

CBS (Tues., Nov. 29, 8 P.M. ET)

B

First came Mr. Novak; Room 222; Welcome Back, Kotter; Square Pegs; Fame; Fast Times at Ridgemont High; Head of the Class; and Bronx Zoo. Now comes TV 101, another school series. Sam (Jason's son) Robards plays your basic maverick teacher who wants to really talk to kids, to communicate. So he turns the school newspaper into a school news show (and there's reason 766 why Johnny can't read). To get his students excited, Robards shows them a videotape of the Hindenburg disaster and says, "You're watching an example of what television does best—record reality, preserve a moment in time so we can experience it ourselves." Never mind that what he says is self-important twaddle. Never mind that the Hindenburg exploded in 1937, years before television. Never mind that these days, reality is just the stuff of which TV movies are made. The kids swallow what he says. "So who wants to be Geraldo Rivera?" he asks. But nobody volunteers—and that may be the best cause for optimism about life on earth that I've heard this year. Finally, the kids do get in front of their cameras and—zap—the show takes a U-turn toward improvement. They report on a day in the life of the janitor, on the chemical dumping ground behind the building, on the football team and on a kid who drinks and takes drugs and then drives and dies. The dictator of a principal tries to censor them, but Robards and his kids win, and you're given more cause for optimism and cheering. So this isn't what it seems at first to be: just another school show, just a narcissistic TV show about TV. In the end, thanks to those kids, TV 101 is a show about honesty.

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