Ellerbee teaches kids a lesson on workings of TV industry


November 06, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Does TV tell the truth? Is what we see on television real? And who decides what appears on our TV screens each day?

Elemental as they might seem, those are big questions to answer in a half-hour show -- especially when you're directing those answers at kids. But that's what Linda Ellerbee does in "Special Edition: It's Only Television" at 5 p.m. today on the Nickelodeon cable channel. While Ellerbee comes up short in her final answers, the 25 or so minutes leading up to them includes some of the most socially responsible analysis TV has ever done on itself.

This "Special Edition" -- the second of three public affairs programs aimed at kids -- goes about it with three segments. In the first, producer Gary David Goldberg admits that shows, like his "Brooklyn Bridge," are there to attract an audience to watch commercials. TV is an "audience delivery system," he says.

Next, Ellerbee talks with teen-agers about TV shows. In clips from "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Full House" we are shown complicated problems being resolved easily. Ellerbee asks if this is how "life really works."

The last segment follows a news crew from WRC-TV in Washington to show how the news gathering process can distort what we see when looking through what the industry likes to call our "window to the world."

Set the VCR. This is a show that can help kids and adults use TV and not be used by it.

("Special Edition" repeats Friday night at 7.)

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