July 18, 1988 12:00 PM

NBC (Wed., July 13, 10 p.m. ET)


You wouldn’t let a carpenter drill your tooth or have a dentist fix your transmission. But NBC is doing something even more ridiculous and dangerous: It is letting entertainers report on reality. I don’t mean Tom Brokaw; he’s no song-and-dance man. I mean Unsolved Mysteries, that sensationalistic garbage about real-life crimes that NBC added to its fall schedule. I also mean Geraldo Rivera, who has been hired by NBC for a special next season. And I mean this show, in which a make-believe TV doctor, Gregory (Trapper John, M.D.) Harrison, reports on four medical miracles. These scientific advances are God-sent and impressive: an operation that treats some forms of epilepsy; microsurgery to reattach fingers; a device that restores hearing for some deaf people; and a new plastic foot that gives amputees improved mobility. But the show’s reporting is flawed. It is incomplete. It is exploitive, hinting about a disease that gave one victim “a crazy mind” rather than simply telling us that the disease is epilepsy. And the production is infected with clichés for the eye and ear: As a man talks of bridging a gap between two worlds, we see him standing on a bridge. These shows have a gap of their own to bridge. They don’t know whether to inform or entertain; only the rarest show can do both. They tell the stories of real people—real victims of crime or disease—but to do so, use flashy video and verbal tricks from the fictional world of show business. They lack the basic skills and standards of the news business. NBC’s real reporters should scream at their bosses for letting such shlock on the air and devaluing their own credibility.

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