1 11-28-88 05:10 pes Soviet TV: glasnost means comedy, drama, rock UPI Arts + Entertainmen

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1 11-28-88 05:10 pes Soviet TV: glasnost means comedy, drama, rock UPI Arts & Entertainment _ Television (800) adv wed nov 30 or thereafter By JOAN HANAUER UPI Feature Writer NEW YORK (UPI) _ The grim joke in the Soviet Union used to be that on any given night, twiddle the dial and you would find three of the country's four television channels broadcasting the same speech by the Soviet premier. On the fourth channel, a man in uniform ordered the viewers to turn back to the previous channel. That was before Gorbachev and glasnost. Now Soviet television offers news shows that include foreign news and some of the warts on Soviet society. Entertainment ranges from game shows to ribald classic drama to a rock group named "Time Machine" that spent 15 years underground before becoming one of the country's most popular groups. There's a magazine show that does features on subjects from Hare Krishna to telephone party lines that help battle loneliness _ sometimes with an X-rated angle. American audiences can see all this and much more _ a comprehensive sampling of Soviet television _ on "Larry King's Night of Soviet Television," to air on SuperStation TBS, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 8:05-11:05 p.m. Eastern time. King doesn't pretend that what he presents is an average evening in front of the Soviet boob tube _ it's the best of Soviet TV and some of it's a lot of fun. "Somebody Else's Wife and a Husband Under the Bed," a bedroom farce adapted from several short stories by Dostoevski, would be delightfully at home on PBS. Then there's a real crowd pleaser _ a sort of reverse home shopping show _ in which shoddy items are auctioned to the lowest bidder for return to the shame-faced manufacturer. These include a jacket in which one sleeve is open and the other has no hand-hole, an unusable plastic bag, a toy with wheels that are supposed to turn and don't, and a balky expandable dining table that two strong men struggle unsuccessfully to wrestle open. How about some American producer putting together this kind of Golden Goof Award _ the consumer's revenge for all the things that don't work as advertised. This night of Soviet television has its more serious side as well. There are the plain facts of Soviet television: it is run under the auspices of Gostelradio, the USSR State Committee for Television and Radio. More than 900 transmitters, four satelites and 90 ground stations transmit video images over the Soviet Union's 11 time zones to the more than 100 nationalities that comprise the USSR. As of 1986, there were more than 90 million TV sets in the country that were reaching 93 percent of the Soviet population of about 280 million. The most popular program in the country is "Vremya" or "Time," a one-hour newscast that airs nightly at 9 p.m. and reaches about 90 percent of the population. Of course, it's the only game in town at that hour, the only show on the air. That Soviet television has loosened up enormously is illustrated in various ways, but none so dramatically as the way two events were handled. One was the 1,000th anniversary of the Russian Orthodox Church, celebrated on television in a show titled "Millenium." It includes the patriarch of the church celebrating its anniversary _ official Soviet television bringing religion into the homes of its people. More striking, considering the long-standing Soviet reluctance to admit anything can go wrong in the worker's paradise, was the handling of the Chernobyl disaster. After its initial, knee-jerk instinct for cover-up, Soviet television allowed newsman and anchor Alexander Krutov to travel to the ruins of the reactor and film the plant, the town, the people. It helped make Krutov the most popular Soviet TV journalist _ and encouraged popular belief in the sincerity of Gorbachev's new openness, his glasnost. There's also "Scarecrow," a fierce and frightening film that uses the story of some schoolchildren as an allegory about life under Stalin. The film was completed in 1983 but not released until 1986 and Gorbachev. It has become the most popular feature film in Soviet history. Not all of Soviet television would knock `em dead in the West. There's "True Man of the Soil from Archangelsk," the story of Sivkof, an admittedly workaholic farmer whose efforts at re-establishing the family farm are making him a national hero. Gorbachev has called the show one of his favorite programs, but it will never replace life among the Huxtables. Then there's "Letter to the Fir Trees," the only Soviet program King shows in its entirety. The hero is a Soviet Georgian war veteran who has a fir tree growing out of an old war wound in his shoulder. His friends, his frantic wife and the bureaucracy try to deal with this problem in a satire of the bureaucratic social system and the Russian character, while the man in question waters his feet. But a tree growing out of his shoulder _ getting taller and taller as the roots work their way down? Well, "Alf" it ain't. adv wed nov 30

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