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TV REVIEW : Noble Ruminations Abound From ‘Meaning of Life’

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

“The Meaning of Life” (at 10 tonight on CBS, Channels 2 and 8) is a television version of what Life magazine has been reduced to: a special-edition, coffee-table smorgasbord of celebrities and common folk, of homilies and pithy expressions about, in this case, the meaning of it all.

Only at the end of the year, when our emotions turn a bit mushy, can prime time indulge such a show. If you’ve ever wondered what software really means, this is it.

At least producers George Schlatter and Quincy Jones mix some levity among the serious and noble ruminations. George Burns kicks off the hourlong examination of life with this thought: “The meaning of life is a good cigar, a sound of laughter, a double martini and a pretty girl, but not exactly in that order.”

For someone else, a butcher, the meaning of life is even more basic: “Cutting meat while listening to Italian opera,” which he ranks right above “the smell of a new car.”

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Most of the answers are themed along inspirational lines-- you can do it , no matter what the odds. Most moving is a young mountain climber, an amputee who lost his feet to frost bite, who is seen climbing again. For Jimmy Connors, life means “the ability to go beyond the fear of failure.” For an 80-year-old widow, it’s sky-diving, of all things, and we go diving with her.

From the squalor of inner-city Chicago (Quincy Jones on a personal tour of his childhood streets) to a Midwestern sod buster extolling the role of the family farm, to the hovels of the Mississippi Delta, the show extracts the upbeat, individual success story. Slickly photographed and edited, under the direction of Donn Hoyer (from a script by Gregory Ross and Schlatter), the production also includes vocal numbers by Natalie Cole, Garth Brooks and Kenny Rogers.


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