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Many-sided look at adoption

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It is difficult to imagine a one-hour informational program on adoption being one of the most entertaining shows of the week. However, the fact is that "Cover Story: Adoption in America" (PBS, Wednesday, 9-10 p.m., check local listings for premiere and repeats) is not only informative, but thoroughly engrossing entertainment. It is such good family entertainment that I heartily encourage anybody searching for a rewarding hour of television viewing to turn to their local PBS channel and watch. Despite the seemingly specialized nature of its subject matter, it is a program for everybody -- but especially for families contemplating adoption of a child.

This is the third in a Newsweek-WQED/Pittsburgh series of informational programs, "Cover Story." The concept is so obvious and simple -- it is amazing that nobody else has had the foresight to do it before. Newsweek simply chooses an important topic, splits it up into several related stories, assigns a staff of producers, writers, reporters, and editors to follow up their segment, makes certain that enough experts as well as informed laymen are involved, then finds individuals caught up in the topic and willing to expose their feelings.

What results is not a complicated mishmash, as you might expect, but probably one of the best programs on all aspects of the adoption experience ever aired.

Under executive producer Al H. Perlmutter (remember his "American Dream Machine?") and several skillful project directors, "Adoption in America" sensitively investigates such varied topics as the search by adopted children for their natural parents and the problem of parentless black and/or handicapped children. The program delves into the future of those airlifted Vietnamese orphans, the question of whether such rescue missions are psychologically valid, the shocking new UN ruling which bars international resettlement efforts for orphans (that's why so many Cambodian orphans remain helplessly in refugee camps), etc.


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