Local Angle, Part One: One of the stars of "Blackmail," a new cable movie premiering tonight on the USA Network (at 9 o'clock), spent his early years on the Chesapeake Bay, working aboard his grandfather's oyster boat.
He's Dale Midkiff, a Salisbury native raised in Edgewood. He worked the water around Deale Island, and also was a waiter and painter summers in Ocean City, while attending Salisbury State college.
Midkiff got his big Hollywood break by starring in the 1988 ABC miniseries "Elvis and Me," playing The King in an adaptation of Priscilla Presley's book of that title. Earlier, he was also the young Jock Ewing in the TV-movie "Dallas: The Early Years."
In "Blackmail," a typical crime-ridden example of USA's original movie fare, Midkiff plays a blackmailer whose intended victim is his lover, Susan Blakely. But blackmailer becomes blackmailee at the hands of singer Mac Davis, in a villainous role that plays against his country sunshine image. John Saxon and Beth Toussaint are also in the film.
Local Angle, Part Two: A team of midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis is seen, albeit briefly, in the fascinating season premiere tonight of "Scientific American Frontiers," at 8 o'clock on Maryland Public Television.
The USNA group was among the competitors in a recent contest to design a human-powered mini-submarine. Alas, they do not fare well in the taped coverage of the event, which took place in Riviera Beach, Fla.
On the other hand, a group of students from Florida Atlantic University take on professional engineers from the Massachusetts manufacturing firm, Bathos Corporation, and prove that engineering ingenuity can ripen in young minds.
Another nice regular segment of the show, pretty enough to be running as a video on MTV, presents "science art," the graphic illustration of a variety of theories. Tonight's example is of the thesis known as "panspermia," which suggest life on Earth drifted here from out of space, like seed pods on the wind.
"Checking out new ideas in engineering and having fun along the way? Just the kind of thing we do on 'Scientific American Frontiers,' " says host Woody Flowers.
* Where's Sir Johnny? Because of a typographical truncation, a column item last week noting the return of radio personality Sir Johnny O (Jonathan Compton) to WEBB-AM 1360 left out the times he can be heard.
His show, "The Best of Times," airs from noon to 4 p.m. weekly on Sundays, featuring oldies from the '50s, '60s and '70s.
* Does anybody else agree that Monday's episode of CBS "Evening Shade" was the funniest half-hour of the season? With Wood (Burt Reynolds, who directed) and most of the cast stuck in a single motel room overnight, the show was a cleverly-written, laugh-aloud tribute to many a sitcom cliche.