'Shattered Lullabies' strains for tears



* The fact that 40,000 babies in America die annually before reaching their first birthday ought to surprise and perhaps even shame viewers, and debate about solutions ought to be part of our political process.

But do we really need to wallow in the emotional trauma as cloyingly as does "Shattered Lullabies," the latest "Your Family Matters" documentary on the Lifetime cable service?

The program, with hosts Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw (who are real-life spouses expecting their first child), premieres at 9 o'clock. But while documenting the embarrassing news that the United States has the highest infant mortality of any Western democracy, it strains for tears and tragedy rather than analysis.

Throughout the show we see mothers and fathers who have lost newborns, including some moms who passed on their own drug abuse, mourning for the children. One man shows snapshots of the tiny coffin for his baby, and several women read letters to the dead children.

"I hope you can forgive me for not taking better care of you," says one teen mother. Another cries "God saw fit to call you to another home -- heaven."

"Who's to blame for so tragic a beginning?" asks Ms. Capshaw at one point.

Who indeed? But "Shattered Lullabies" doesn't go very far toward providing an answer, beyond the obvious fact that one in three pregnant women in America cannot afford prenatal care. Instead, like any tabloid talk show, it seems to thrive on merely sharing emotional pain.

* In the studios of WBAL-Channel 11 today and again on Monday, about 600 Maryland residents are seeking to become contestants on the revival "You Bet Your Life" game show.

Search coordinators for the program chose the prospective contestants through an earlier application process. The show is due on the air on Channel 11 next fall from the same company that produces "The Cosby Show."

The original "You Bet Your Life," with Groucho Marx as the quipping host, was on NBC/syndication from 1950 to 1961. But an earlier revival effort, in 1980 with host Buddy Hackett, disappeared in short order.

* NBC has given "Wings" permission to take off for a third season next fall. The series about two brothers (Timothy Daly and Steven Weber) who operate an airline on the island of Nantucket has been a ratings winner in its coveted after-"Cheers" time slot (9:30 p.m. Thursdays).

* Trivia test: What occasional bit player in the old "Andy Griffith Show" starred in the early 1950s in one of television's best comedy ensemble series ever?

It was Howard Morris from the 1950-54 "Your Show of Shows," who played unschooled mountain man Ernest T. Bass in a handful of "Andy Griffith" episodes. In tonight's rerun on cable's TBS service (at 6:35), Ernest gets an education.

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