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Television Reviews : ‘Studio 5B’: Energetic Attempt at ‘Broadcast News’

“Studio 5B,” a new ABC series that arrives tonight at 9 (Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42), opens with a burst of get-up-and-go, aren’t-we-glamorous music (by Mike Post) that’s reminiscent of the theme music of local news shows.

It’s no coincidence. This series ventures behind the scenes of television news--specifically, into a network morning news/interview program. The idea is to present an ongoing “Broadcast News.”

Tonight’s episode occasionally approximates that movie’s comic energy, especially in scenes in which a young would-be booker (Kim Myers) tries to nail her job by nabbing Jackie Onassis for an interview. But “Studio 5B” doesn’t come close to the melancholy of “Broadcast News.” The makers of the series are as determined to create “hot” television as are the producers they’re depicting. The softer moments in Judith Parker’s script are the least assured.

One character, Gail Browning (Wendy Crewson), corresponds quite precisely to the woman played by Holly Hunter in “Broadcast News.” She’s a young segment producer who’s meant to be the avatar of professional standards in the face of assaults from an opportunistic co-anchor (Kerrie Keane) and a sensation-seeking executive producer (Jeffrey Tambor).

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Gail’s private life, naturally, is a shambles. On the job, we see her prepare footage of a group-therapy session for child molesters, while the co-anchor tries to hog the air time and heat up the story by staging a face-to-face confrontation between one of the molesters and the father of the child he molested.

This story line ends with an act of violence, the likes of which have never actually happened on any of the morning news programs. But in the age of Geraldo Rivera and Morton Downey Jr., such an incident is not inconceivable. It may be healthy for television to point the finger at itself like this. But using the incident as the climax of an entertainment show is to have one’s electronic cake and eat it too.

It remains to be seen if “Studio 5B” is worth twice the time used by the 30-minute “Murphy Brown,” which covers much of the same ground but with a lighter touch.


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