Picks and Pans Review: Inside TV Land: African-Americans in Television

updated 02/04/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/04/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

TV Land (Fridays in February, 9 p.m. ET)

There haven't been nearly enough black people on the tube in the past half-century, but there have been way too many to cover thoroughly in the three hour-long installments of this Inside TV Land special. African-Americans in Television, though it sometimes leaves us begging for more information and insight, does a respectable job of hitting the historical highlights and recognizing efforts that were worthy but short-lived.

The hour devoted to variety (premiering Feb. 1 and repeating Feb. 8) calls deserved attention to Nat King Cole's NBC show of 1956-57 as well as Flip Wilson's '70s hit on that network. The program on drama (Feb. 15) includes Cicely Tyson's breakthrough role as a regular on East Side/West Side (1963-64) in addition to her 1974 triumph in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Part 3, on comedy (Feb. 22), features The Cosby Show, naturally, but doesn't neglect Tim Reid's low-rated treasure Frank's Place (1987-88).

Too bad the special has to leave questions hanging as it rushes to complete the course. Was the demise of Arsenio Hall's late-night show a racial matter? What were those "creative differences" on the City of Angels production team? Sorry, time's up.

Bottom Line: Ambitious to a fault

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