Although sometimes exuding a star-struck quality, and ofte guilty of gratuitous name dropping, there is no denying Larry King has that mysterious knack of getting people to say things that may surprise even themselves.
Taking a cue from a figure of similar skills, ABC's Barbara Walters, cable's most penetrating interviewer tonight offers a "Larry King Extra" (at 8 on the TNT basic service). It's an engaging hourlong special in which he interviews some top celebrities, but without the two-way telephone aspect of his usual nightly chatfests (at 9 on CNN).
We hear actor James Woods confess, for example, that despite his success, "I've been miscast most of my life," and he wishes he could do comedy.
Actor Jeremy Irons says he steadily gets mail from Klaus Von Bulow, the accused poisoner he portrayed in his Oscar-winning performance in "Reversal of Fortune," and also reveals, "I'm married to a difficult woman and I do a difficult job."
San Antonio Spurs star David Robinson, who tries to teach King some piano basics, says he slips into movie theaters after the show has started so he doesn't get recognized.
And actress Barbara Hershey acknowledges she sometimes wishes she had taken the Glenn Close role in "Fatal Attraction" when it was offered, and closes by saying, "I'm unemployed."
This is all silly star gazing of the People magazine sort, of course, and many viewers may wish for more biographical details about the subjects.
Irons' surprising comment about his "difficult" wife, for instance, just lies there without so much as a further reference, or even a mention of her name. (One wonders how it played at home, too). And the Hershey interview seems empty of much personal detail beyond the roles that she has played.
But in each case, we do feel we have learned a little something about the personalities of the subjects, something beyond the usual promotional puff.
CABLE CONNECTION, PART 2 - Last week it was the Academy " of Country Music Awards on NBC. Tonight the talent behind the performers gets some significant recognition in the "Music City News Country Songwriters Awards," at 9 on The Nashville Network. Kathie Baillie, Jimmy Dean and Ray Stevens are the hosts of the telecast, live from the Grand Ole Opry.
DUCKS FOR DETENTE? - A recent Baltimore visitor to the Soviet Union, a participant in a three-week exchange program involving students from City College, Poly and Western high schools, discloses his host family in Leningrad gathered in front of the television nightly at dinner, just as many Americans do.
The surprising show of choice? The animated series "Ducktales," a Walt Disney Studios product! ( The show airs in Baltimore at 4 p.m. daily,on WBFF-Channell 45.