Focus : A 'Day in the Life' Goes Country

Steve Hochman is a frequent contributor to TV Times and Calendar

May 7, 1993, just a typical day in the world of country music:

Kenny Rogers at the White House photographing the First Family . . . Reba McEntire is hanging out with Burt Reynolds.

Yeah, sure. That seems about as typical as Lyle Lovett getting a haircut.

Which, in fact, he was getting on that day, when nearly two dozen film crews fanned out across the U.S. to capture glimpses of the goings-on among country musicians. The 53 hours of film they brought back was edited down to 90 minutes for "A Day in the Life of Country Music," a CBS special airing Friday.

Much of the show--inspired by the "A Day in the Life" series of photo books that have frozen 24-hour blocks of subjects from Australia to Hollywood--does cover the more routine, even mundane elements of country music life. There's Tammy Wynette cooking on her tour bus, Lorrie Morgan writing a song, Waylon Jennings playing with his grandchild, Clint Black giving a concert.

Executive producer Ken Kragen and writer-producer Kelly Junkerman acknowledge that some artists' schedules were tweaked to make more interesting things fall on May 7. Rogers, for instance, had been trying to schedule a photo session with the Clintons around that time anyway (an avid photographer, he'd previously done sittings with Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan during their terms in office).

"It was an active part of my life," Rogers tells TV Times. "It was intentional to have that as part of the show. I didn't want them to film me playing golf--especially the way I'm playing now."

But, Junkerman says, "90% of what is seen on the show is what (the participants) were just doing that day. Lyle was getting a haircut."

"One of my criticisms of the show is I would have liked to come back two or three times in the show and follow one person through the whole day," says Kragen, who manages participants Rogers, Travis Tritt and Trisha Yearwood and who is a TV veteran, having been behind, among other things the Smothers Brothers' variety shows and Rogers' numerous TV movies and specials.

Kragen also thinks that some of the segments may look too staged, notably a sequence with Tritt visiting a war veterans hospital. "It was real, but the way it was edited makes it look staged," Kragen says. "In contrast, the guy who shot Trisha Yearwood (doing an autograph session at a Target store) just followed her around and shot what happened."

The segment the producers are most proud of is the one that concludes the show, a piece featuring Clint Black meeting with fans and press before and after a concert in Jacksonville, Fla., cut as a montage with a live song performance from that concert.

"I was having fun with my fans," says Black after seeing his segment. "And I like meeting people. This really gives it a glamorous look, busy but showbiz."

Even if it's not perfect, Kragen and Junkerman view it as a learning experience and are already planning a follow-up, "A Day in the Life of Television." Next up after television, the producers hope to train their lenses on "A Day in the Life of Rock 'n' Roll."

Hmmm, let's see . . . Axl Rose getting a pedicure . . . Ozzy Osbourne reading Kant . . .

"A Day in the Life of Country" airs at 9 p.m. Friday on CBS.

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