Picks and Pans Review: Power Plays

updated 02/07/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/07/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

PBS (Mon., Feb. 7, 9 p.m. ET)

B-

Need some confirmation that the sporting scene in this country has got completely out of hand? Fox will be paying John Madden $8 million a year. To provide commentary on football. For three hours a week. For a season that lasts five months.

This grandiose six-hour documentary series, airing over three consecutive nights with two episodes per night, would like to furnish further proof of our sports madness. By and large, it fails.

The films purport to examine the glittering dreams and often seedy reality of big-business American sports. But the British producers of this project approach the subject as if they are discovering penicillin. For American viewers, much of this material will seem obvious and old hat. Also, since most of this material was taped in 1992, it seems dated, particularly a long segment on the opening night devoted to the mass merchandising of Michael Jordan. The basketball superstar's sudden retirement last year is mentioned only in passing in a postscript. That's kind of an important detail to be dropping in as an afterthought, eh, chums?

Sports lovers will find this series altogether too long, diffuse and gloomy. But the filmmakers do treat the topic with circumspection and intelligence. That makes the chapter on the final night about the mania for football in Texas worth watching. How 'bout them Cowboys! But the rest of this series certainly isn't going to make anyone's highlight reel.

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