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TV REVIEW : Poorman’s ‘Love Channel’ Needs to Censor the Sponsor-Kissing

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There’s an anecdote from the early days of television: A breathless champion of the new medium is explaining its virtues to a lifelong radio enthusiast.

“It’s like radio with pictures!” the TV person says.

To which the radio person replies: “Pictures of what?”

The biggest difference between “The Love Channel,” a new TV show hosted (on leased time) by former deejay Jim (Poorman) Trenton, and “Loveline,” the radio call-in advice program that Trenton hosted for more than 10 years on KROQ-FM, is that now Trenton can be seen as well as heard.

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Which is decidedly a mixed blessing. If Dick Clark remains “America’s teen-ager,” Trenton has pretty much of a lock on the dubious distinction of being “America’s juvenile.”

“The Love Channel” premiered live Monday at midnight on Anaheim’s KDOC Channel 56, where it will continue weeknights until (a) Trenton really does become the Poorman paying for the air time and calls it quits, or until (b), saints preserve us, the show catches on, in which case KDOC or another commercial station might decide to foot the bill.

Like its radio counterpart that continues on KROQ minus Trenton (who has filed a $22.5-million lawsuit claiming ownership of the “Loveline” show), “The Love Channel” invites those at home to call in with their love, sex and/or legal problems. All three kinds came into play with the first caller: a 17-year-old girl from Hollywood who said her boyfriend is pressuring her to have anal sex, which has her worried that he might be gay.

“The Dick Cavett Show” it’s not.

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Callers patient enough to tolerate Trenton’s lowbrow sex jokes can get medical advice from “Dr. Danielle” Ardolino, a UCLA Medical School graduate who is completing her residency at the UC Irvine Medical Center, or legal tips from Dan Hustwit and Carlos Spiga, partners in a Century City law firm.

Ardolino, the new show’s answer to “Loveline’s” Dr. Drew Pinsky, has the thankless task of playing straight woman to Trenton’s signature brand of raunchy retorts and one-liners.

Introducing her at the outset of the show, Trenton said: “Pretty cute for a doctor, huh? I’d like to have an exam.”

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Groucho Marx he’s not.

Like her “Loveline” predecessor, Dr. Danielle, as she is referred to on the show, constantly voiced her frustration with Trenton’s infantile behavior, which he has parlayed into a career.

In the late-night talk-show wars, Trenton trumpets himself as the only genuine alternative to Leno-Letterman-O’Brien and on that count, he’s right. Technically, “Beavis and Butt-head” isn’t a talk show.

The live format caught up with Trenton a couple of times Monday night, first with a Howard Stern fan who apparently called only to mention Stern’s name on the air, then with a curmudgeon whose problem was that he’d “never been so bored--I have to hang up.” Which he did.

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From a production standpoint, the show actually looks better than most self-produced paid programming, suggesting that Newport Beach resident Trenton, who also is executive producer of “The Love Channel,” has enough smarts to surround himself with a competent crew.

What they actually capture with their cameras is another story. Leased air time means that Trenton pays the station for a block of time, then lines up his own sponsors in the hope of recouping his outlay.

Virtually every aspect of the show contained a plug for one of his sponsors.

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When Trenton wasn’t gushing about how delicious a particular micro-brewery’s beer is, how well-stocked a certain music store is, or how tasty a certain burger joint’s food is, taped commercials by the same establishments were hammering the points home.

One of those commercials, coincidentally enough, was for the law firm of Hustwit & Spiga.

Even the Newport Beach-based house musicians managed to work in plugs for their album, an upcoming gig and their information hot line. The only thing they didn’t tell viewers was who makes their guitar picks.

One of the program’s few genuinely humorous bits came about 40 minutes in, when Trenton began earnestly begging the crew to locate even more commercial spots that he was afraid hadn’t aired yet.

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Fortunately for the advertisers, he interrupted the plugfest as few times as possible with actual programming. Consequently, just three callers and one in-studio guest, who wore a bag over his head to conceal his identity, asked for advice.

The hourlong show included several taped features that appeared to be regular segments--each with its own sponsor, natch--including “Nadia’s Hollywood Trash Report,” which jumped abruptly to--imagine this--a commercial just as Nadia was voicing her unsubstantiated opinion that the star of several hit action films has mob ties.

Even those who tune in strictly to bask in Trenton’s loopy, Beaver Cleaver-on-testosterone personality may have a hard time wading through all the sponsor-kissing on “The Love Channel,” which might more accurately be called “The Plug Channel.”

In any case, the disadvantage of TV became blatantly clear: Now when Poorman becomes unbearable, you have to turn the sound and the picture down.

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* “The Love Channel” airs Monday through Friday at midnight on KDOC Channel 56.


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