Berle 'Biography' revisits TV's infancy

TODAY'S TV

March 15, 1994|By David Bianculli | David Bianculli,Special to The Sun

The offering that's the most enjoyable tonight is of interest primarily to fans of vintage TV -- and it's a very rare and old vintage. Arts & Entertainment's "Biography" series spends an hour explaining and presenting the career of "Milton Berle," with kinescopes featuring everyone from Frank Sinatra to Harpo Marx.

* "One on One With Magic Johnson" (8-9 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- Remember when Whoopi Goldberg had her own talk show? I do, because one of the guests her first week was Ted Danson, and I was puzzled at the time about why she would schedule him in such a prominent slot. (Then we all learned.) Now Whoopi is a guest again, and this time it's Magic Johnson who's going the route as celebrity-to-celebrity talk-show host. His guests, besides Ms. Goldberg, are Shaquille O'Neal, Garth Brooks and Roseanne and Tom Arnold. Fox.

* "The John Larroquette Show" (9-10 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- NBC has enough faith in this show to do something to try and save it -- though why it won't just move the show away from "Roseanne" and put it in a better time slot is a mystery. After all, "Seinfeld" was being killed by ABC's "Home Improvement" until NBC moved "Seinfeld" to Thursdays, where it's now the network's biggest comedy hit. At any rate, tonight's double feature begins with an original episode (opposite a "Roseanne" repeat, so give it a chance), followed by a repeat episode featuring guest star Bobcat Goldthwait. NBC.

* "Sin and Redemption" (9-11 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- The last time we saw Cynthia Gibb in prime time, it was as Gypsy Rose Lee in the CBS remake of the musical "Gypsy." Now she tackles another role in which she begins as a meek little angel and matures into a woman unafraid to stand up for herself. This one, though, is a docudrama, co-starring Richard Grieco as her sometimes abusive husband. The big surprise in this story, which I won't divulge here, already has been blown by the network's on-air promos -- and knowing it in advance gives you one less reason to watch. Ms. Gibb carries her weight with assurance, but this story, while shocking in its twists, is no big deal. CBS.

* "NYPD Blue" (10-11 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- This is a repeat, the one that begins with a rather heated basketball game. If you're a fan, you know the one. ABC.

Cable

* "Biography: Milton Berle" (8-9 p.m., A&E) -- The clips, all by themselves, make this special worth watching. Mr. Berle's story is the story of TV's infancy and development, and this "Biography" offers plenty of examples of how he earned the name "Mr. Television." Watch, in particular, for Mr. Berle's quick but sharp interaction with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

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