The scope of television is sometimes scary, from the ultimately trivial to the truly terrifying. Two unrelated programs tonight frame the medium's schizophrenic focus, in profiles of two fascinating women:
* Actress Jessica Lange is the first, the subject of the latest edition of the Cinemax premium cable network's "Crazy About the Movies" series (at 9 o'clock). And there is no arguing her attraction.
For as seen in this show, sub-titled "It's Only Make-Believe," Lange is one of those stars who is absolutely adored by the camera, yet is seemingly unaffected by it. In long interview segments, the camera catches her disarmingly adjusting her collar, scratching her back and fidgeting in a chair, as if she is not being filmed at all.
Clips from her films ("King Kong," "Frances," "The Postman Always Rings Twice") capture the same unaffected style. It is easy to understand when director Sidney Pollack says that he cast Lange in "Tootsie" because, "I wanted someone who you could instantly fall in love with."
Interestingly, Lange herself seems introspective about the essential fantasy she has lived. She was raised in rural Minnesota, roamed the country as a '60s dropout (with a Spanish photographer) and studied mime in Paris before settling in New York as a model and subsequently auditioning for "King Kong."
"I don't know how I would actually deal with life," had she not become an actress, she says.
* Maria Serrano is the other absorbing woman profiled on TV tonight, and it is unlikely the name will mean much to many viewers. She is the subject of "Maria's Story," the latest edition of the PBS series "P.O.V.," at 11 p.m. on Maryland Public Television (channels 22 and 67).
This film by Pamela Cohen, Catherine Ryan and Monona Wali takes us about as far from the glamour of Hollywood as we can go.
For Serrano is a 39-year-old guerrilla who lives in the hills of El Salvador, fighting with the Farabundo Marti National Liberation group, which opposes the U.S.-backed government of the Central American nation.
Fighting with her are her husband and children. And we hear shockingly matter-of-fact descriptions of how their village was overrun by troops, and how their oldest daughter, Ceci, was killed in a raid and her body gutted lengthwise as an act of intimidation to the rebels.
"We are going to fight to the last drop of blood, the mothers to the last child . . . if that's what it takes to free our country," vows Serrano.
We may not understand the politics of the El Salvador situation very well from "Maria's Story," for it focuses intimately on its subject, with whom Cohen and Wali spent two months.
But the passion of a life lived for survival comes through strongly.