'Call to Glory':at last, a TV drama of compassion and taste. And 'Anatomy of a libel case': clever, informed participants probe the delicate workings of democracy
One of the most effective new-series promotions in years was slyly shoveled into millions of American homes by ABC amid last week's euphoric Olympic gold. If you have watched any part of ABC's Olympic coverage you have undoubtedly been bombarded by advertising spots for Call to Glory (ABC, Mondays, 8-9 p.m.; starting Monday, Aug. 13, 8-10 p.m.). ABC plans to premiere this ''Limited series'' in a two-hour special the day after the Olympics ends and then continue it through the summer and into September when the new season officially begins. And if it gets high ratings, you can bet it will still be on the air when winter rolls around.
''Call to Glory'' deserves to be around for a long time.
It is a delightful surprise-filled tale with authentic details of life in America in the 1960s. The premiere of the series traces the day-to-day life of the Sarnacs, an Air Force family, as they live through the military crises and adjust to the insecurity of relationships within that framework.
But ''Call to Glory'' is not merely a military story - although there is much interspersing of newsreel footage concerning the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. It is a tale of compassion and understanding, with great sensitivity in its portrayal of family relationships. Teen-agers cope with the real problem of ''how far to go,'' siblings insult each other lovingly, youngsters worry silently about their father's survival when he goes on a dangerous mission, grandpa lives at home and sometimes makes awkward comments, the deaths of comrades is handled with impeccable delicacy. And true to the 1960s, most wives wait patiently at home through it all.
Written by Max Jack, directed by Thomas Carter, and produced by David A. Nicksay, ''Call to Glory'' is a superb piece of television Americana. It manages to capture the essence of that period - its hokum and superficiality as well as its sincerity and basic decency.Constantly teetering on the edge of soap opera, it always manages to pull back just enough to evoke honest tears and accurate relevance.
The series boasts a fine cast of ensemble actors - Craig T. Nelson, Cindy Pickett, Keenan Wynn, Gabriel Damon, Elisabeth Shue, and David Hollander are especially good as the Sarnac family.
Perhaps ''Call to Glory'' is patriotic America as seen through rose-colored electronic glasses - but what a delightful change of pace from the outrage-of-the-week pattern we have come to expect on other dramatic series. 'Anatomy of a Libel Case'
Sooner or later every journalist faces the problem of striking a balance between an individual's right to his good name and the public's need to know important facts about that person if he is in the public eye.
Anatomy of A Libel Case: Business vs. the Media (PBS, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 9- 11 p.m., check local listings) is the condensed version of a ''Media and Society'' seminar taped last year at Stanford University. The fictionalized scenario revolves about a reporter's investigation into the background of a successful businessman who has been nominated as secretary of defense.
Can and should a reporter check into the personal life of the nominee as well as the grubby details of some of his business dealings? Does the nominee have a right to sue? Can the reporter protect his sources for questionable material? Should a newspaper editor decide to publish such material?
These are only a few of the questions posed in this long but not tedious show , filled with a wide range of clever, witty, knowledgeable participants such as Anthony Lewis of the New York Times, Herbert Schmertz of Mobil Oil, Edgar Bronfman of Seagram & Sons, and Morley Safer of CBS. Moderator - and assuredly the drollest, most articulate, and certainly most penetrating of them all - is Harvard law Prof. Arthur R. Miller, who deserves a late-night talk show all his own.
Even if two full hours of ''Anatomy of a Libel Case'' is more than you choose to hear about libel, try watching at least some of it in order to understand the complex legal issues involved in safeguarding free speech - for everybody. The program is a thoroughly informative and entertaining lesson in democracy.