Moyers takes a wordy look at violence TURNED ON IN L.A.

January 09, 1995|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Is Bill Moyers becoming the Ted Kennedy of public television?

That's a question some viewers are likely to be asking if they try to wade through "What Can We Do About Violence?: A Bill Moyers Special," which premieres at 9 tonight on MPT (Channels 22 and 67).

The first two hours of Moyers' report kick off three nights of PBS programming this week that looks at the issue of violence in America -- especially youth violence. Tomorrow night at 9, PBS will air a "Frontline" special -- "Does TV kill?" -- which looks at the connection between television and violence. The 70-minute report will be followed by a round-table discussion led by Moyers. Then on Wednesday at 9, PBS will air another two hours from Moyers' report.

"What we have done . . . is simply to travel around the country talking to people and looking at some experimental programs that offer some hope," Moyers told TV critics here last week.

And it is mainly all talk -- as in blah, blah, blah, blah, blah -- both in Moyers' and the "Frontline" segments. What new information they have could have been presented in five-and-a-half minutes -- not hours.

These three nights of "Act Against Violence" should be Grade A grist for the mill of PBS critics. They provide a caricature of New Deal/Great Society problem-solving with their emphasis on talking and then calling a round-table to talk some more -- without ever risking any hard conclusions.

Calling Dr. Freud: Connie Chung and her interview with Kathleen Gingrich remained on the front burner over the weekend in sessions with CBS News President Eric Ober, CBS News Vice President Andrew Heyward and CBS Group President Howard Stringer.

The trio was asked if Chung has a serious image problem as an anchorwoman, especially if you connect the dots from her interview with Gingrich to other tabloid encounters by Chung with Faye Resnick and Tonya Harding.

"There is a potential image problem that obviously I'm concerned about," said Heyward, her boss on the evening newscast she co-anchors with Dan Rather.

"At the same time," Heyward added, "you know, I work with Connie every day on a very serious problem. Problem? Program. Freud, are you there? I need you again. A very serious program."

Stringer said he was going to call Chung over the weekend to tell her that CBS management still loves her.

Now, that's a call that would make me start to worry.

A hallmark for Roc: Charles Dutton and Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright August Wilson met with critics to promote a Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "The Piano Lesson" scheduled to air Feb. 5 on CBS.

Wilson had high praise for Dutton. He said there would be a role in every play he ever wrote for Baltimore's Roc.

"I think he embodies the humanity of my characters better than anyone else," Wilson said of Dutton. "He's quite a unique actor. He does things sometimes unorthodox, and he always makes it work. He's truly wonderful."

It's not easy being PC: Kevin Costner met with TV critics to promote his eight-hour documentary on Native Americans, which will air this spring on CBS.

Costner not only narrates "500 Nations" and serves as one of its executive producers, but he also put up the $8 million it took to make the film.

During the press conference, though, Costner was challenged by one of the critics on why he was using the term American Indians instead of Native Americans to describe the subjects of the film.

"Hey, maybe I'm politically incorrect or an idiot or something," Costner said. "I'll say Native American, too. I'm just aiming to please."

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