too much of nothing
By MARK VAITKUS
In the wake of recent CBS Nielsen.
success with 60 Minutes, it came as lit-
tle surprise that the other major net-
works would quickly develop weekly
news magazines of their very own. ABC
christened its clone 20/20, while over at
NBC, unimaginatively enough, Prime
Time Sunday was born (now Prime
Time Saturday after dismal ratings
forced a time switch).
0 Although neither network's alter-
native appears capable of overtaking 60
Minutes' popularity, 20/20 is holding its
competitive own with generally insight-
ful commentary and the appeal of its
host Hugh Downs, not to mention the
likes of reporter Sylvia Chase. Prime
Time, on the other hand, continues to
bring up the proverbial cellar.
By now the NBC brass must be pon-
dering over what went awry. As is the
case with most everything Fred
Slverman has wrought since arriving
in Land o'f the Peacock, the answer is
bound to be complex. But perhaps part
-of the difficulty can be traced to Tom
Snyder, the newsman/interviewer who
was to provide the major viewer attrac-
tion for Prime Time. Make that a ra-
ther large part of the difficulty.
Mr. Snyder's claim to fame is, of
course, as the man who brings us
Tomorrow, four mornings a week -
4ollowing The Tonight Showbut always
full six hours before Today. (How
does NBC keep coming up with those
ingenious titles?) Tomorrow proved to
sponsors once and for all that people do
indeed watch commercials after 1 a.m.,
even if Johnny's last guest is Dr. Len-
don Smith. In a time slot where the
greatest competition is often an old
made-for-TV movie, the insomnia
crowd took an immediate liking to
Snyder's typically off-beat interviews
'ith convicts, witches, runaways, and
just about any other available noncon-
SNYDER'S interviewing style is far
removed from the slick presentation of
a Mike Wallace, yet hiTauorrow show
manages to stay well above the provin-
cialism of Phil Donahue, ;for example.
His questions are usually pointed and
serve to keep guests, particularly the
counter-cultural ones, from wandering
into ambiguities. Nevertheless, he
I*ways seems to maintain a genuine in-
erest and involvement with his subjec-
ts on Tomorrow, providing just the
right amounts of "friction" and then
(Continued from Page 1)
"Great!" said Darcy Gingerich, a
eshwoman in Alice Lloyd. "That's
ery good news."
Janice Keramedjian, a Mosher-
Jordan resident and member of the rate
study committee, said Hughes' decision
"was something I didn't expect."
Keramedjian said she felt Hughes'
unexpected decision increases the
changes that the Regents would vote to
iminate the consolidation program.
If the Regents approve the Housing
Office's recommendations, a single
room next year would cost ap-
proximately $2,481; a double, $2,092;
and a triple, $1,846.
giving them plenty of room to expound
their emotions and beliefs.
Snyder is every bit as stimulating as
David Susskind, but without that stuffy
air of superiority. Somehow the
darkened New York studio, the
seediness of the guests, coupled with
Snyder's low-key abrasiveness, ragged
laugh, and on-camera chain smoking
blend remarkably well in Tomorrow. A
better combination probably could not
be found for a show which airs after
most parents have finally gotten their
sixth-graders off to bed. And there
couldn't be a more appropriate vehicle
to suit Tom Snyder's talents.
As with most everything that works
well in television, there are limitless at-
tempts to exploit it, and Snyder is no
exception. NBC execs considered
grooming him for Today as well as The
Nightly News once Barbara Walters
defected to ABC. There was even talk
he might take over the almighty reign
of J.C. o The Tonight Show. Instead he
was given Prime Time Sunday, and it
was hoped that with the smoothing over
of a few rough edges, Snyder could
become another Harry Reasoner.
UNFORTUNATELY, without his
rough edges, Snyder is like Dinah
without her coffee cups or Mike
Douglas without his co-host. He looks
uncomfortable and stiff on Prime Time,
almost as if he not completely engaged
in what he is doing. He goes through the
motions of anchorperson, but provides
negligible continuity for the segment
format, an admittedly radical depar-
ture from the one hour, in-depth
arrangement on Tomorrow.
Like Dick Cavet, Snyder suffers
greafly iii the process of editing.
His relatively passive firing
of questions makes clean cuts awk-
ward. Invariably the flow, or the
relaxed pacing which is a trademark of
the Snyder interview is disruptively
Without a doubt, however, Tom's
greatest problems on Prime Time
derive from his limited cpacity to in-
terview conventional personalities.
This shortcoming was brought quite
painfully to light las Monday (Jan. 21)
when NBC aired the first of three
specials designed to bring Snyder more
spectacularly before the public eye.
BILLED AS Tom Snyder's Celebrity
Spotlight, the show cast Tom in the role
of :Rona Barrett via Bo Derek, Gary
Coleman, tarry Manilow, and Clint
Eastwood. This tactical blunder should
have informed even the most casual ob-
server why anything similar Snyder
has tried on the less-than-grand scale of
Prime Time was doomed from the start.
A few examples will suffice to make the
During the Derek interview, having
established that Bo posed for Playboy:
Toen: Is that lirfienltIo eo (pose in thwe
Bo: t's nt the usualnt Playb
tuasing...ir x aked, beatifl,.it was
in a beatial place..
Tomn: It's a lass at is what vo'r'
sa I ing.
Later, in the course of having Bo
react to "rumors" about herself:
Tom: (They sai) she's a pretty girl
but not rery bright.
fi: Oh reull0?I'e mecer heard that.
Tn: Well I har".
The Michigan Daily-,Wednesday, January 30, 1980-Page 5
Join the artspage
Have you ever attended a concert, play, or film only to awaken the
following morning to read a review that seemed to be written by someone
who went to a different show of the same name? If you've ever said "I could
do that!" after disagreeing with an arts page review, it's time to put your
typewriter where your mouth is.
The Michigan Daily is looking for new staff writers. The only prerequisites
are a specific interest in writing and a general interest in the arts (use your
own definition). Beside the usual popular music-theater-film criticism, we
have an urgent need for writers interested in classical music, the visual arts,
and arts-oriented features. The bottom line here is creativity; if you have
some insight or a new approach to offer, the arts page could be your outlet.
If you are interested, the first step is to prepare a sample of your writing.
Length isn't important here; we just want something representative of your
style and the subject matter you'd like to cover. Stop by the Student
Publications Building at 420 Maynard any afternoon and ask for the arts
What do these two men have in common? Perhaps the fact that while both
are well known, nobody is too sure why Tom Snyder and Steve Martin are so
popular. Today's page should shed a little light on this dilemma.
lo:I'm not dunI,.
Torn: You xfm a little elefnsirr
Merv, where are you? With Clint
Eastwood the ridiculous approached
Iom: What was your job in the war?
It was probahlyvy dangerous.
Clint: Yeah, I was a swinming in-
Tom: Did %-on eer 11vY awake it
night and think about how much bert-
ter it was to be a swilmnmuing instructor
than ont there fighting?
Clint: Yeah, I thought about it eavry
SNYDER'S COMPLETE boredom
with his task was nowhere more ob-
vious than in his conversation with
Manilow. To Manilow's report that he
"was lucky to make it home alive" as a
child in his rough neighborhood, Snyder
replied, "Well, you did." Even the fact
that Barry had delivered mail for
"Freddy" Silverman evoked from
Snyder only the most nonchalant
I do not believe that Snyder was being
either stupid or facetious through all of
this. He simply was not all that in-
terested in Gary Coleman's train set or
whether Clint Eastwood wants an
Academy Award or how Bo Derek tur-
ned down King Kong but agreed to star
in Orca the Killer Whale. The camera
easily and continuously betrayed every
facial effort Snyder made to look as if
he did not wish he was someplace else
,or, on a few occasions, that he was not
actually nodding off.
In a very real sense, Snyder per-
sonally had nothing to talk about with
his captive superstars. Why else would
he ask each one of them what they had
thought of becoming when they grew
IS IT FAIR to suggest that Snyder is
not performing his job professionally?
Maybe. But we have got to keep in mind
that four nights a week he has the op-
portunity to apprehend the minds of
prostitutes and mediums. Should it
really be any wonder that the evolution
of Barry Manilow's career might have
the same attraction for him as stale cot-
The bright lights, the glare of studio
polish, the competition from Fantasy
Island, and all those "prime time
people" that go with them, are ap-
parently just a bit too much for Mr.
Snyder. A bit too much of nothing.
Barry said Tom was "exactly right"
in his interpretation of "One Voice" as
opaque. Barry also said that at first he
thought the song was "so simple it was
dumb." A bit too much of nothing? If
Barry Manilow says so, you've got to
believe it. r
' The Jerk'
BY JOSHUA M. PECK cringing i
Carl Reiner, the man who tutored Mel pathy with
Brooks in comic technique, the man they see be
responsible for the 2000-Year-Old Man, Watching
The Dick. Van Dyke Show, and current trE
numerous other humorous delights, has to buy th
sullied his heretofore sterling comic colleague
reputation with The Jerk, the most in- genius. B
sidiously benumbing "comedy" of the physical c
He is abetted in this horror by leading produce hi
player Steve Martin, who, despite his not by she
occasionally amusing sojourns on the the Compa
Saturday Night Live set, seems to have tainers to
put even the rudiments of genuinely film, The
comic acting behind him. He leaps which was
blissfully from shtick to shtick, eviden- American
tly ignorant of the total dearth of jollity Continenta
his efforts afford, meek schl
The Jerk follows the jerk from his
origins in a black share-cropper's home
in the South, to fame and fortune in the
big city, and then to despair and pover-
ty. It makes myriad stops along the
way to revel in what its creators clearly
imagine to be gloriously funny sequen-
ces (they let each drag on for seeming
eternity), but which come up lacking
laughs with remarkable consistency.
TAKE THE scene in which Navin
Johnson (Martin) is shown his living
quarters by the gas station owner who
has just hired him on as an attendant
(please). Taken into a bathroom, he is
given to understand that the little room
is intended for his occupancy. Ignorant
as he is, he rambles unselfconsciously
on, singing his undying thanks for his
host's hospitality. Perhaps a chuckle or
two could have been squeezed out of the
sequence had director and star npt
fallen all over themselves trying to
milk it, but by the time Martin finally
shuts up after a half minute of tedium,
the audience members have begun
n embarrassment in sym- m
the showcase of ineptitude la
fore them. co
g Steve Martin at work in the u
avesty practically forces one fr
he European view of his
Jerry Lewis as a comic di
Both men are primarily tu
omedians, but Lewis works in ar
with script and soul to B
umor through his situations, a
er tomfoolery. What brings d
rison between the two enter- d
mind especially in Lewis' tl
Absent-Minded Professor, pi
s unjustly scorned by most
critics (but again, not by C
). ones). In it, Lewis' usual h
emiel discovers a potion that m
akes him a gregarious, handsome
dies' man. The humor stems from the
ntrast between the professor's newly
nleashed id and his normal, hopelessly
When Martin kicks into a flailing
sco dance late in The Jerk, he is ac-
ally offering a less clever, more
rrogant version of Lewis' alter ego.
ut his enactment of the type is only
rrogance and aggressive stupidity,
ragged down into the humorless
oldrums by foregoing most of the sub-
ety and all the humanity, while
icking up twice the obnoxiouspess.
Listen, Mssrs. Reiner and Martin:
omedy comes from poking fun at
uman folly, not from the antics of
FORTRAN, laser, gallium arsenide, microwave, Comsat,
'fellowships, ADA (a dialect of Pascal), and more.
Best of all, they talk your language.
So have a talk about your future and ours. Ask your
placement office when the Hughes recruiters will be
HUGHES AIRCRAFT COMPANY
AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER M/F
qqI rateJoseph Helleir's
between The Brothers
Karajmazov 'and those dirty
little eight-pagers we
used to read...Coser to
M el B ro o ks9
EXCERPTED FROM THE WASHINGTON POST
Good as Gold made Mel Brooks laugh. It'll make you laugh. Laugh out
loud. Because it's about Bruce Gold, a man who began life in Coney Island and
ended up in America's real amusement park, Washington, DC. He's the kind of guy
only Joseph Heller can give you. Hilarious. Heartbreaking. And only slightly less
insane than the world around him. He's a true Joseph Heller hero. Created by the
writer who's already given us two extraordinary and enduring novels, Catch-22
and Something Happened.
Good as Gold. It has been praised as "more perceptive-about human
nature than anything else Heller has done...he is among the novelists of the last
two decades who matter." THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
5th.Avenue atLi.er. t.767-9700
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