'Nightline' and 'Donahue'? Get real, Ron


August 12, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun TV Critic

Ron Reagan says he wants his new talk show to be a cross between "Donahue" and "Nightline." There is a little bit of "Donahue" with Reagan's fielding questions in a smarmy, touch-me-feel-me way in the audience. But it's "Nightline" only in your dreams, Ronnie.

Let's be fair: Ron Reagan is every bit as good a talk-show host as Neil Bush was a savings & loan director . . . as David Eisenhower was a sportswriter . . . as Lucy Baines Johnson was a debutante.

What is it about presidential offspring -- is it them or us? Are they really as hapless as they seem or is it that we somehow insist on seeing them that way?

The topic comes up again tomorrow at 12:30 a.m. when "The Ron Reagan Show" premieres on WBFF-TV (Channel 45).

Reagan, 33, is the son of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. A not-widely-known ballet dancer before his father became president in 1981, he since has worked as a correspondent for ABC's "Good Morning America" and been a guest host on "Saturday Night Live."

The taped show scheduled to air tonight is on religion. It is a curious pastiche of other talk shows, which overall has more the feeling of an hour-long info-mercial than a real talk show. In fact, I can think of several info-mercials that have more interesting hosts.

Reagan opens by saying, "Would you believe America is the most religious country in the world? Well, maybe. Maybe not." That's about as specific and informational as it gets.

The maybe-maybe-not opening is followed by a gospel troupe, which marches onstage and does a spirited song. Then it's time for "serious" discussion about religion with the likes of Brother Charles, a "New Age spiritual leader"; Elizabeth Clare Prophet, leader of the Church Universal and Triumphant, and the Reverend Ike. Any possibility of insight was lost when the producers decided to stack the audience with followers who shout and clap each time their leader speaks.

Reagan tries for sarcasm in interacting with panelists. "You say God talks to you," he asks one of them. "Is his voice high or low?"

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