This is the season when nonselective TV viewers in the let's-see-what's-on-TV-tonight category receive the almost inevitable answer: "Nothing worth watching."
Occasionally you may find a fairly interesting special on PBS (usually a show that somebody believed had limited national interest), and you may also find some fine documentaries on the commercial networks (after all, summer is documentary dumping time -- when the ratings don't count so much.)
NBC is airing a typical summer show this week. It falls into the worth-watching-if-you have-nothing-better-to-do category: "Rona Barrett Looks At Today's Super Rich" (Friday, NBC, 10-11 p.m., check local listings).
Miss Barret has become NBC's problem star -- they can't decide whether she is "news" or entertainment. According to "Miss Rona," she is definitely news, and this is one of the shows she has done to prove it.
Well, I think NBC still has the problem.
"Super Rich" is a Barbara Walters-type personality interview show with a theme. The theme is: What do nouveau-rich people have in common? Rona tries to find out by asking them innocently ingenuous questions, and they respond with slyly ingenuous answers. If you hope to find a clue as to how to become superrich, you are doomed to disappointment. After all, if you were a billionaire, would you tell all your secrets?
The rich people are Donald Trump, New York City real estate tycoon; Trammel Crow, Texas real estate tycoon; John Johnson, publisher of Ebony and Negro Digest; Diane Von Furstenburg, fashion and cosmetics tycoon; Clement stone, Chicago insurance tycoon; Harry Helmsley, real estate tycoon. That's a lot of tycoons -- members of the most exclusive club in America: self-made millionaires.
The millionaires flew by so fast that I had trouble keeping up with their moneymaking tips. But in my notes I find: killer instinct, enjoy work, love family (but don't spend too much time with them), invest in real estate and never sell, refinance, read Horatio Alger Jr., make it a game, gamble, have supportive family, unlimited credit at the bank.
But I came away from the hour convinced that the last tip is the one that really counts. The only problem is, nobody told how to get unlimited credit at the bank.
"There's nothing really objectionable about trying to find out how superrich people got that way, and the show is harmlessly innocuous summer viewing. But it might have been more interesting to explore the philanthropic habits of the nouveau rich against those of the old rich such as Rockfeller, Vanderbilt etc.
What I do find objectionable, however, is the fact that not one of the new superrich mentioned anything worthwhile he or she was doing or planning to do with all that money. What else is on?
Across the channel at ABC, two hours are filled with what may prove to be the week's viewing highlights.
"Return to Auschwitz" (ABC, Friday, 9-10 p.m., check local listings) is another example of the truly innovative daring of ABC News Closeup's Pamela Hill , who will air any documentary deemed worthwhile, even if it was produced independently -- even if it appeared somewhere else first.
In this case, PBS has already aired "Kitty: Return To Auschwitz" in a longer form. Now ABC Closeup has acquired it from producers Peter Morley and Kevin Sim , who did it originally for Yorkshire TV in England, has cut it to an hour, and is giving millions more viewers an opportunity to see this quietly devastating documentary. It is about a Kitty Hart, the daughter of Polish Jews, who makes a personal pilgrimage to the concentration camp where she managed to survive while 30 members of her family perished.
Kitty has brought her son along so that he never forget the Holocaust. "Return" is a horror story which, once seen, will never be forgotten. Although it is an excruciating experience, it is, perhaps, the one show which makes summer TV viewing worthwhile.
After "Return To Auschwitz," ABC is broadcasting an anticlimactic special (what wouldn't be after Kitty?). It is the first edition of a show which sounds suspiciously like the PBS Hodding Carter "Inside Story." This time around it is called "Viewpoint" (ABC, 10-11 p.m., check local listings) and promises "an opportunity for those with serious complaints about television news coverage to have their views heard and for us to respond to their complaints."
It will be interesting to see if ABC gives fair coverage to the complaints of Kaiser Alumin um against its own "20/20."