Much television attention is being paid in this back-to-school week to the challenges of the classroom, but Baltimore County's Comcast Cablevision tonight tackles an extra-curricular subject of concern to teens and their parents.
A special one-hour edition of "Steering Clear" (at 8 o'clock on Comcast channel 2) starkly outlines the societal consequences of alcohol abuse.
"In reality, the drug alcohol is the number one cause of most of our crime and violence," asserts host Mike Gimbel, director of the county's Office of Substance Abuse. Normally in "Steering Clear," he offers five-minute reports each month which are seen daily on channel 10, the CNN Headline News service.
But he says the expanded edition, which will be repeated at 8 p.m. each Wednesday this month, is timed to the beginning of school, and also is given urgency by two recent and PTC much-publicized teen deaths in Maryland because of alcohol use.
"Right now there's a real mood swing regarding alcohol in this country," says Gimbel.
About half tonight's program is the airing of an independently produced documentary, "Cruel Spirits," which hammers home the message that the harm of alcohol abuse reaches into many problem areas of society.
Drunken driving is obvious, as the show notes that more than 20,000 people in this country die annually in accidents in which drinking was a factor.
But the number of deaths of all kinds in which alcohol is a factor surpasses 100,000. Further, half the inmates in U.S. prisons were drinking at the time they committed their crimes, and 65 percent of child abuse and 52 percent of spousal abuse can be related to alcohol.
The documentary is on the heavy-handed side, and one can be skeptical that teen-agers who are adept at ignoring authority advice will really absorb the message. But the point is sharply made, as the documentary notes that if alcohol were discovered tomorrow, it would almost certainly be classified as a controlled substance, just as other narcotics.
AROUND THE COUNTY -- Also beginning tonight on Comcast Channel 2, at 9 o'clock, is the monthly 30-minute series "County Kaleidoscope," which focuses on local issues. Tonight's segment looks at the Oregon Ridge Nature center and the Family Crisis Center of Baltimore County.
THE COMEDY THING -- In an unrelated but cute coincidence, the art of stand-up comedy is examined twice tonight on CBS (Channel 11).
First, in the final airing of the series "Police Squad" (8 o'clock), whose brief six-episode airing some years ago spawned the "Naked Gun" movies, Lt. Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) goes under cover on stage in a comedy club.
And on "48 Hours" at 10, all due seriousness is paid to the challenges of becoming a paid comic in a segment titled "Survival of the Funniest." Alan King is among the guests.