MPT's evening on the Chesapeake

November 14, 1992|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

Maryland would not be Maryland without the Chesapeake Bay, and Maryland Public Television tonight emphasizes the point with an evening of programming about the pleasures and problems besetting the estuary that cleaves the state's land area nearly in two.

"MPT on the Bay," a three-hour block of four programs beginning at 8 p.m., does not really sail any new waters. Although making their MPT premieres, the shows have been seen elsewhere before, and one of them is actually about a different estuary.

But viewed together, the documentaries offer a nice summary of environmental pressures, as well as an evocative appreciation of the moods and people of the body of water whose name means "great shellfish bay". The lineup: "Outdoors Maryland: On The Chesapeake" at 8; "Chesapeake: Living Off the Land" at 9; "Watershed for the Chesapeake" at 9:30 and "Yellowlegs, Eelgrass and Tideflats" at 10:30. The full package repeats beginning at 8:30 tomorrow morning.

The most provocative of the shows is the second, a documentary that premiered this summer on WJZ-Channel 13 with host Walter Cronkite, a avid Chesapeake sailor.

Produced for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation by Annapolis-based Walkabout Productions and funded by the Abell Foundation, the film was made to supplement the bay foundation's "Turning the Tide" study of last year.

With little attention to the political arguments, it makes the point, as comic-strip character Pogo once observed, that the enemy is us when it comes to the challenges facing the Chesapeake.

Familiar scenes of blue herons and hard-working watermen contrast with traffic jams, sewage plants and suburbanites washing their cars to show that the bay is the eventual repository of much of humankind's detritus in this part of the world.

Can it be saved? Mr. Cronkite does not seem sure.

The first show, a compilation of seven bay-connected segments seen in various editions of MPT's "Outdoors Maryland" series, includes a particularly nice few segments that introduce viewers to the human side of the bay equation.

In one, a Shady Side waterman named Frank Gross and his son, James, discuss the way their family has made a livelihood as long as they can remember, questing for oysters from the bay's bottom.

"It's a rough life. You get used to it somehow," says the older man.

The next segment takes viewers to Smith Island, the isolated community whose way of life increasingly seems an anachronism under siege.

"Watershed for the Chesapeake" patiently presents the basic science that underlies the slow degeneration of the Patuxent River, one of the bay's major feeders. And we meet some of the people who helped launch a major movement to save the bay.

And "Yellowlegs, Eelgrass and Tideflats," narrated by the late actor/director John Huston, is a lyrical nature study of the complex habitats of wetlands. Much of what is said could apply to the bay, although the area under study is in Washington state's Puget Sound region.


THE BOSS TALKS -- Cable's VH-1 service this weekend debuts a new edition of its "VH-1 To One" interview series, with Bruce Springsteen.

The show can be seen at 6 o'clock tonight, with a repeat at 9 p.m. tomorrow.

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