A Bronx Cheer for BBC's 'The Kiss'

If you'd heard that a public-television station had picked up a program about kissing from the British Broadcasting Co., what would you expect? Maybe a dry, scientific and historical inquiry into mouth-to-mouth communication?

No such luck. Despite its share of professorial and scientific opinion, "The Kiss" (3 p.m Sunday on Channel 28) proves to be an hour-long fluff-fest--closer to a peck on the cheek than a deep soul kiss.

Narrated by actor George Segal, the documentary reviews famous kissers, movie kisses, kisses in art (one segment shows students studying and speculating about Rodin's statue of two kissers), political kisses, religious kisses and so on ad infinitum.

The approach is so relentlessly light that even the academic element turns out to be silly sociology for the most part. Various teachers and researchers accomplish little more here than to point out the obvious--that kissing is reciprocal, that it can be sexual or sexless, that it passes on minute quantities of chemicals from one person to another, that it can be used to show who has the power in a relationship.

Anyway, producer Robyn Wallis seems more interested in the action's more frivolous sides--of which it has many, few overlooked here. The camera lingers long in such institutions as a school where actors learn how to kiss, and at Max Factor, where a guide discusses the less-than-fascinating history of lipstick.

Worst of all, "The Kiss" keeps returning for no apparent reason to a British couple whose speciality is winning contests in which people see who can kiss the most times in a minute. "The Kiss" doesn't quite manage to make puckering up seem like a bore, but it comes dangerously close. Kiss it off.

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