June 23, 1997 in Features

Novelty Of ‘Polar Bears’ Grows Thin

John Martin New York Times Syndicate
 

So you think you have problems because the neighborhood dogs occasionally rifle through your garbage?

Wait until you tune in ABC’s “Polar Bears: Arctic Terror” at 8 and find out what the people of Churchill, Manitoba, have to put up with during the summer and into the fall.

When ice in Hudson Bay melts, the dangerous creatures, some as tall as 16 feet when they rise up on their hind legs, head inland to live off their winter fat and forage for snacks.

The annual occupation of polar bears has made Churchill a gathering place for scientists as well as tourists.

In this “World of Discovery” special, you’ll see how researchers tag and track the magnificent creatures. At the same time, a local tourist industry thrives on their yearly visits.

This special offers up-close and memorable images of the bears. One provocative segment deals with how, when Halloween rolls around, the townspeople work together to make sure that their little tricksters don’t turn into polar bear treats.

Unless you’re a bear fanatic, the hour begins to drag. (Aren’t you glad I didn’t say it becomes unbearable?) The film seems to need one more angle, one more story-within-the story to keep it going strong to the finish.

But if you love the outdoors, this eye-catching special affords an opportunity to see one of the most beautiful - and, yes, most terrifying - members of the animal kingdom.

Highlights

“Evening at Pops,” KSPS at 8: The 28th season opener features Charles Osgood, Dawn Upshaw and the Boston Ballet in a program that includes music by George Gershwin. Osgood plays the piano and banjo.

“Mad About You,” NBC at 8: Mel Brooks guest-stars in this repeat from December when Paul (Paul Reiser) receives a grant to make a film but has trouble picking a subject. He turns to his quirky Uncle Phil (Brooks) for inspiration.

Brooks is at his daffy best.

“Mad TV,” FOX at 8: Included in the sketches is a goof on “ER” set in a public relations office.

“Fired Up,” NBC at 8:30: Gwen (Sharon Lawrence) ropes Terry (Leah Remini) into a get-rich scheme that involves selling pressure cookers on television.

The plot sounds like an idea stolen from Lucy and Ethel. But Lawrence and Remini so far haven’t shown themselves to be in the same league.

“The Ruby Wax Show,” FOX at 8:30: Fran Drescher, Bill Cosby and Pamela Lee (again) are the victims of Wax’s blathering interview style.

“Late for Dinner” (1991), ABC at 9: Peter Berg (“Chicago Hope”) and Brian Wimmer (“China Beach”) play guys who were cryogenically frozen in 1962 and wake up to a brave new world 30 years later. A blockbuster it wasn’t. “Sleeper” it isn’t.

Look for Kyle Secor and Janeane Garofalo.

Cable Calls

“Basketball,” ESPN at 4:30: The Women’s National Basketball Association makes its national prime-time debut with a game between the Los Angeles Sparks and the Utah Starzz.

Whoever came up with that WNBA slogan, “We Got Next,” has puzzled most people, who find the expression as unfamiliar as it is ungrammatical.

But I suppose the NBA’s unofficial slogan, “We slam-dunk, trash talk and throw punches,” wasn’t an option.

“Biography,” A&E; at 5 and 9: Vice President Al Gore is profiled in what may be one of the first broadcasts that pointedly asks whether he has the right stuff to be the next president. The answer here seems to be a rather gushing yes.

Included is an interview with his Harvard roommate, actor Tommy Lee Jones.

Talk Time

“Tonight,” NBC at 11:35: Model Naomi Campbell, actor Tate Donovan and singer Patti LaBelle.

“Late Show With David Letterman,” CBS at 11:35: Actress Marilu Henner, MTV personality Daisy Fuentes and 16-year-old musician Jonny Lang.

“Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher,” ABC at 12:35 a.m.: Peter Fonda, Werner Klemperer and comedian Jann Karam.

“Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” NBC at 12:35 a.m.: Actor-comedian Pauly Shore and actor Bruno Kirby. Repeat.


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