ON AND OFF THE AIR:
* It has been said that one way to judge the relative advancement of any culture is to consider the way it treats its elderly and its children. Unfortunately, in our current culture we entertain ourselves at the expense of children.
A case in point is "Stop At Nothing," a new movie premiering on the Lifetime basic cable service at 9 tonight, with Veronica Hamel ("Hill Street Blues") and Lindsay Frost ("Mancuso: FBI").
The plot involves a case with echoes of the sensationalist ongoing real-life story of young Hilary Foretich, the girl hidden by a mother who accused her former husband of sexually abusing the child. Lifetime, the cable service oriented toward women's issues, earlier aired a documentary on that case.
In tonight's movie, Lifetime's fourth original film, Hamel and Frost are women separately engaged to protect the daughter in a nasty custody case. Each parent accuses the other of being a danger to the girl. Obviously, the very real jeopardy to children in such cases is worthy of exploration, and Lifetime is saying the movie portrays strong women fighting for their principles.
So why does the network's ad in TV Guide this week depict Hamel holding a pistol to the temple of Frost? The child-welfare issue seems just an excuse to attract viewers with another jolt of the violence to which we seem so morbidly attached.
* Regarding the recent full-scale violence in the Persian Gulf, PBS Home Video last week began releasing to video stores the cassette "Kids Ask About War" under a policy offering free borrowing of the tape.
Cooperating stores also will be offering parents and teachers the opportunity to purchase the tape as low as $5.95, and the cassette will be available by mail. For information about participating dealers, call the toll-free PBS number, 1-800-776-8300; to order the tape by mail, call 1-800-624-4727.
* When is an "exclusive" story not exclusive? When the interview subject pops up on at least two programs the same day.
Co-host Charles Gibson of ABC's "Good Morning America" promised one day last week that the show would have the first exclusive interview with the wife of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.
Sorry, Charlie. You were first only in the sense that "CBS This Morning" aired its own interview a little later the same morning. In fact, it seemed obvious that the Persian Gulf commander's spouse emerged into the public eye in a carefully orchestrated way that had little to do with journalistic enterprise.