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The people of 'Middletown' decades later: is this a true picture?

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If you feel resentment toward the basic morality on display in a new PBS series titled ''Middletown,'' you may wonder if your reaction is based upon an unwillingness to face the reality of the 1980s. But don't judge yourself too harshly.

Robert and Helen Lynd's classic book -- a sociological study of the structure of life in Muncie, Ind., in the 1920s and 1930s -- has been updated to the 1980s and turned into a sometimes revealing but mainly disagreeable six-part documentary series: ''Middletown,'' (PBS, Wednesday and five succeeding Wednesdays, 9 p.m., check local listings for day and time).

Because of the importance of the original book and what appears to be a serious attempt to bring it up to date, the series cannot be ignored. Many viewers may interpret what they see as typical of Middle America, and it is therefore important to analyze the series' apparent lack of perspective.

Produced and partially directed by Peabody, Emmy, and Academy Award winning documentarian Peter Davis (''The Selling of the Pentagon'' and ''Hearts and Minds''), ''Middletown'' was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities with some underwriting money from Xerox. In a growing furor of publicity, Xerox has indicated that it does not want its name associated with the series. What some advance viewers have termed ''objectionable'' portions of the final segment , ''Seventeen,'' have already been excised by PBS.

I viewed these scenes and agree completely that they are offensively explicit as well as exploitive of the youngsters who took part. In fact I wonder why certain additional parts of the series were not also expunged.


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