Worthwhile documentaries stand out

TODAY'S TV

May 26, 1994|By David Bianculli | David Bianculli,Special to The Sun

CBS has an all-documentary night tonight, and all three hours are worth watching. The other recommendation is a TV show that, essentially, is a 40-plus-years-old rerun: fledgling sketches featuring Ralph and Alice Kramden, predating even the famous "lost episodes."

* "Eye to Eye: 'Don't Blame Me.' " (8-9 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- This hour is Bernard Goldberg's hour to shine, and the stalwart correspondent from this series and "48 Hours" does just that. It's a program devoted to the idea, currently very much in vogue, that people like the Menendez brothers and Lorena Bobbitt can admit guilt for their actions, yet escape punishment by essentially explaining the motives that drove them to violence. Mr. Goldberg doesn't just approach the topic, he surrounds it -- by grilling defense attorneys who use the "Don't Blame Me" defense, tracing our current tolerance levels to TV talk shows, explaining and puncturing politicians' cynical variations on the theme ("Blame Me, But Don't Punish Me"), and even checking with psychologists to trace the phenomenon to childhood avoidance of punishment. This excellent report may make you angry enough to go out and do something awful. If that's the case, just blame it on the TV. Everybody else does. CBS.

* "CBS Reports: 'D-Day.' " (9-11 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- This "CBS Reports," with co-hosts Dan Rather and H. Norman Schwarzkopf, echoes not only the glory days of "CBS Reports," but attempts to echo the production techniques of "The Civil War," by using actors (Charles Durning, Anthony Hopkins, Peter Ustinov and others) to read the letters and provide the voices of military leaders and soldiers. Mr. Schwarzkopf, as in his previous outings for CBS News, proves to be an incisive and enthusiastic historian, but the accounts of survivors of the Normandy invasion are what make this "D-Day" special so emotionally powerful. Those accounts, and one other thing: a truly stirring final image. CBS.

* "Law & Order." (10-11 p.m., WMAR, Channel 2) -- NBC must have decided there oughta be a law in this time slot, so there is: The week after "L.A. Law" moves out, repeats of "Law & Order" move in. And this repeat guest stars Faith Prince, who was such a doll in "Guys and Dolls." NBC.

* "The Arsenio Hall Show." (11:35 p.m.-12:30 a.m., WBAL, Channel 11) -- So far this week, Mr. Hall has presented an all-star, bi-coastal hip-hop "supergroup" and interviewed Miss Nude World -- in her working uniform, yet. Obviously, he's spending this final week doing whatever he wants, which ought to make this penultimate show quite interesting indeed.

Cable

* "The Honeymooners: The Really Lost Episodes." (9-10 p.m., DIS) -- Paul Reiser is host of this special. The kinescopes, taken from Jackie Gleason's earliest "Honeymooners" sketches on DuMont's "Cavalcade of Stars," are the reason to watch, and they're like unearthing and enjoying first-draft manuscripts of a comedy classic. Watch for Art Carney as a cop, not Ed Norton, in the very first sketch, and see how Pert Kelton and Elaine Stritch, as the earliest incarnations of Alice and Trixie, approached those roles.

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