Fudd to Vonnegut: all part of TV diet

July 17, 1992|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

Los Angeles -- One of the stranger things on the fall preview tour is how the press conferences, interviews and screenings are scheduled one after another all day with no delineation. You leave a press conference for the Cartoon Channel where Elmer Fudd is pointing a gun at Bugs Bunny, and walk into another room to hear Kurt Vonnegut talking about Salinger or Hemingway.

It can be disorienting. It is, though, a hyper, three-dimensional version of the very way TV comes at us in our homes -- disjointed images and pieces of information seizing our attention, one flowing into the other with no separation, except an announcer or anchorman saying, "And now this."

Here are some pages from a reporter's notebook of "and now this . . ." moments on the tour:

The Discovery Channel and the Smithsonian Institution held a press conference to promote "Frontiers of Flight," a special on aviation. On the panel were: Tom Crouch, the resident scholar on early aviation history at the National Air and Space Museum; Don Lopez, senior adviser to the director of the museum; and Wilkinson Wright, grand-nephew of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

They were asked by a reporter to discuss where they'd like "to see us go in new frontiers of flight."

"I would like to see us go ahead with the hyper-sonic transport," Lopez said. Crouch talked about a space station on Mars.

"Will, what would you like to see in your lifetime?" Wright was asked.

"I'm afraid I'm not on as high a moral plain as these two gentlemen," he said. "I'd just like to see more convenient and comfortable air travel."

*

ABC held a press conference with Delta Burke to promote her new fall show "Delta," in which she plays a country-western singer. During the session, a reporter tried to be delicate in bringing up Burke's weight.

"I'm just wondering," the reporter said, "you have taken so much flak about every tiny little thing, you know, about yourself -- if you gained a pound, didn't gain a pound. What do you think about that?"

Burke thought about it for a second, then said, "I think it [stinks], basically."

*

Robert Duvall who plays Joseph Stalin in an HBO mini-series this September, "Stalin." Amid a great many questions about historical accuracy, Duvall was asked about the Russian-accented English he spoke in the film. Was the accent important in such historical pieces, the questioner wanted to know.

"Well, it depends," Duvall said. "In the 'Last Temptation of Christ,' everybody had a Brooklyn accent. I think that was a little disconcerting."

*

Author Kurt Vonnegut was part of a press conference to promote "Kurt Vonnegut's Monkey House" on Showtime (The session came between one for the Cartoon Channel and another with Roy Rogers for a movie on the cowboy star's life.).

"Mr. Vonnegut," a reporter who indicated he was an expert on Vonnegut said, "these are extraordinary pieces. But you made a vow after 'Slaughterhouse Five,' became a movie that you weren't going to allow any more of your work to be brought to the screen."

"No, actually, I'm very pleased with 'Slaughterhouse Five,' " Vonnegut said. "You've got me mixed up with someone else. I think it's J. D. Salinger who said that."

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