Public television is beginning to look like the Friar's Club--an unending succession of salutes, tributes and testimonials.
In the past week we've seen new programs paying homage to Jimmy Stewart, Vincente Minnelli, Lawrence Welk and Jule Styne. There are four more today on KCET Channel 28: repeats of toasts to Benny Goodman (at 2 p.m.) and Glenn Miller (at 6:05 p.m.), and new renderings unto Henry Mancini (at 8 p.m.) and Thelonious Monk (at 10 p.m.).
The reason for all this back-slapping, of course, is PBS' spring fund-raising drive. Like so many tributes in the show-business world, these are designed to raise money. There is something slightly insincere and manipulative about that, but at least the subjects are worthy of praise and generally are well served by the programs.
"Mancini and Friends," also airing tonight at 9:30 on Channel 15 and again Sunday at 2 p.m. on Channels 28 and 15, is no exception. Co-produced by KCET and WNET-TV of New York, it showcases the famed composer's music with performances by Julie Andrews, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Sue Raney and Andy Williams, among others.
Mancini himself is on hand to conduct the 45-piece orchestra that, in addition to backing the singers on such songs as "Moon River," "Two for the Road" and "Crazy World," performs his themes from "Peter Gunn" and "The Pink Panther," his "Baby Elephant Walk" from "Hatari," and a medley of the Big Band tunes that influenced him. It's a rich lineup of music, expertly delivered.
The adulation inherent in these sorts of programs occasionally becomes excessive, however, as when the scene shifts from the TV studio where the music is being performed to Mancini's home, where Quincy Jones narrates a segment showing viewers Mancini's seven gold records, four Academy Awards and wall of Grammy Awards. There is also a segment showing still photos of Mancini with some of the famous people he's known.
It's times like those that leave you wishing TV were still radio.
In keeping with the testimonial theme, PBS caps its spring fund-raising drive Sunday night with "A Musical Toast." Itzhak Perlman hosts the three-hour program (beginning at 8 p.m., Channels 28, 15 and 50), which features appearances by Marilyn Horne, Leonard Bernstein, Roberta Peters, the Modern Jazz Quartet and the American Symphony Orchestra.
Elsewhere Sunday night, NBC kicks off its three-part miniseries "Nutcracker: Money, Madness and Murder" at 9 p.m. (Channels 4, 36 and 39), with Lee Remick starring as a socialite who persuaded her son to kill her millionaire father; and CBS broadcasts "Deadly Care," a new TV movie in which Cheryl Ladd portrays a nurse hooked on alcohol and drugs (9 p.m., Channels 2 and 8). Here are other weekend programs.