Picks and Pans Review: The Soviet Union: Seven Days in May
CBS (Wed., June 24, 9 p.m. ET)
Grade (so far): A
I smell a trend: Sovchic. These days, we’re fascinated with things Soviet. Last summer, the BBC and PBS gave us Comrades, a miniseries and book about assorted Soviet citizens. In April this magazine devoted an entire issue to Russia. Now Dan Rather and 40-odd colleagues spend a week in the Soviet Union to make this two-hour special. All these expeditions ignore the snooze-inducing Kremlinologists and instead try—within well-advertised limits—to find and portray real Russian folk, making the Other Guy less foreign and menacing. CBS visits Estonia, where economic reforms have led to the opening of a rough equivalent of a McDonald’s—a privately owned meat-pie cafeteria. Next CBS talks to husband-and-wife steel-workers who haven’t felt reform; they complain about inefficiency as might any American blue-collar workers. Diane Sawyer follows Moscow’s party boss as he hears shoppers kvetch about yellowed parsley and cheap meat; she finds in him a “thoroughly modern Marxist,” a ward heeler who could win votes in Chicago. You meet a cop who flatly admits that the Soviets have a drug problem and you watch as a pusher is jailed; that is one startling exercise in glasnost. And you meet a television reporter and a magazine editor who trade in a rare new commodity for the Soviet media: bad news. Those are the half-dozen segments that were ready for review—about half of the show. So far, so good. So far, very good. I’ll be sitting home watching the rest when you do because I can’t get enough of this Soviet stuff. No, I won’t tire of the trend until I see Californy restaurants serving goat-cheese blinis.