'Edge' is honest about TV industry


Here's some unusual truth-in-programming: "The purpose of television is to sell things." And, "it is not fundamentally an art medium."

The statements are from, respectively, producers Dennis Potter ("The Singing Detective") and Steven Bochco ("L.A. Law," "Hill Street Blues," etc.), as heard in one of the more intriguing segments of tonight's edition of "Edge."

The breezy cultural magazine show on PBS, hosted by Robert Krulwich, turns the attention of its fifth outing to the workings of media. (It's at 11 p.m. on Maryland Public Television, but can also be seen at 9 p.m. on Washington's WETA-Channel 26.)

"We are dying," says Mr. Bochco flatly of dramatic television on the networks. He predicts the future for TV lies increasingly in "some form of pay television," such as cable and video, and suggests, "I think that will be liberating.

It's a nicely introspective segment, especially with the play between Potter and Bochco. The latter gives Mr. Potter's "Singing Detective" series on PBS the credit for inspiring his creative ratings failure, "Cop Rock."

The brutal truth is that up to 90 percent of all new shows fail, Mr. Bochco notes. So he suggests that producers conclude they're just as likely to succeed, "doing something you have a general passion for."

Now that's a liberating idea.

Other nice segments on "Edge" include a look at the serious comics magazine "RAW," and the rise of new young jazz players.

A piece on the public relations image war surrounding convicted junk bonds figure Michael Milken is less successful, however, -- unless its goal was merely to prove it is impossible for an average media consumer to make any judgment of truth in the case.


THE NEWS NEWS -- Speaking of image projection, WMAR-Channel 2 this week changed the name of its news programming.

You didn't notice? Formerly known straightforwardly as "Channel 2 News," it is now billed as "NEWSCHANNEL 2."

Along with the change seems to have come a more competitive edge to promotions, such as one for the morning team of Rudy Miller and Horace Holmes.

"They're not loud and obnoxious," says one viewer in the spot. Hmmm, is there any doubt the reference is aimed at morning rivals Marty Bass and Don Scott over on WJZ-Channel 13?

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