Mark Harris
February 22, 1991 AT 05:00 AM EST

Forbidden Channels

Current Status
In Season
Penny Stallings
Television, Pop Culture

We gave it a C-

Ed Sullivan was ”a steel-balled power freak.” Peter Bogdanovich was a ”noted shiksa-hound.” I Love Lucy‘s William Frawley had a pet name for his costar, Vivian Vance: ”Old Fat Ass.” String together several hundred of these unelaborated bits of gossip, and you’ll have a fair idea of the nasty, scattershot tone of this picture-laden grab bag of television feuds, nips, tucks, rivalries, vanities, and failures. Penny Stallings, who has reported inventively for PBS’ MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, has grouped her observations by ”shared whimsy” (small-screen nose jobs get one section, celebrity cat fights another, rumor victims a third) and has relied heavily on unappetizing remarks about age, weight, and appearance. As the observations pile up, what should be a history of TV through its behind-the-scenes embarrassments becomes an endless recapitulation of the gossip itself. But much of the dirt here is disappointingly sanitary (one big revelation: the original Mr. Ed was fired after the pilot episode), typographically inaccurate (one sentence manages to misspell actor Kadeem Hardison’s name; the name of his A Different World character, Dwayne Wayne; and the Cazal brand of sunglasses), or, worst of all, wrong: When Forbidden Channels suggests that Roseanne Barr was almost fired from her series for failing to diet, it never quite recovers.

You May Like