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TV Reviews : Spalding Gray’s ‘Old Wise Tales’ Spin Meekly

“Everyone has a story,” says raconteur Spalding Gray near the end of “Old Wise Tales” (tonight at 10:30 on Channel 28). So why don’t we hear more of them?

We hear snippets of folk wisdom from the group of old-timers Gray found at a senior center in the Fairfax District, but we hear no particularly engaging tales. Some of the folk wisdom is phrased colorfully, but much of it is very bland--the sort of thoughts that might stray through the head of any reasonably happy person.

For the most part, these people do seem quite happy, and it’s nice to hear that old age isn’t necessarily a bitter pill. But this program doesn’t go very far beyond “nice.”

Gray even drags out the cliched question that is perpetually asked centenarians in small-town newspaper interviews: To what do you attribute your longevity? Or, as Gray phrased it, “how did you get this far?” The answers are instantly forgettable.

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Perhaps Gray and producer/director Lyn Picallo tried to include too many people in half an hour; no one has the time to tell a really good story.

Some of the show was shot at the Taper, Too, during Gray’s presentation of “L.A., the Other, Conversations With . . .” there last year. On stage, Gray limited the number of interview subjects to a maximum of five each night. He should have followed the same format on television, especially for a 30-minute slot.

Then again, there just aren’t many people who tell a story as well as Gray does in his own monologues. Compared with his more personal pieces, “Old Wise Tales” is pure fluff.


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