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On the Air aired from June until July 1992 on ABC.

Every so often a series flashes by on the TV screen that is so strange even critics aren't sure what to make of it ( remember Quark? Police Squad? Eerie Indiana?). On the Air, from producer David Lynch ( of Twin Peaks fame) fit the bill. It was set in 1957, behind the scenes at the Zoblotnick Broadcasting Corporation during the production of a big, brassy TV variety show called The Lester Guy Show. Lester ( Ian Buchanan) was a young but fading star who hoped the show would revive his career; unfortunately he kept getting knocked unconscious by falling props. Others rushing about included Vladja( David L. Lander), the show's incomprehensible director; stage manager Ruth ( Nancye Ferguson), who translated for him; Bert ( Gary Grossman), the nervous second banana; Betty ( Marla Jeanette Rubinoff), the ingenue who gave the phrase " dim bulb" new meaning; incompetent producer Dwight ( Marvin Kaplan); Shorty ( Irwin Keyes) the stagehand; and sound engineers Mickey and Blinky ( Mel Johnson, Jr., Tracey Walter), who was blind and kept hitting the wrong buttons.

Tyrannizing them all was hot-tempered ZBC network head Budwaller ( Miguel Ferrer), who stalked the stage with his ruthlessly ambitious assistant Nicole ( Kim McGuire), freightening everyone, even Snaps, the little dog who performed in the commercials ( and who hated the sponsor's dog food so much he had to be chained to the bowl).

A Review from The New York Times

TV Weekend; Caught in a Storm Over Abortion
Published: June 19, 1992

"A Private Matter," having its premiere tomorrow at 8 P.M. on Home Box Office, is the kind of made-for-television movie you won't find in network prime time. For one thing, the subject is abortion, and today that subject is highly emotional and divisive, hardly the stuff of advertiser needs. For another, "A Private Matter" is complicated, its unmistakably pro-abortion rights stance snarled in issues and personalities not conducive to tidy upbeat endings.

Anchored securely in unflinching performances from Sissy Spacek and Aidan Quinn, this is a fact-based story involving Sherri and Bob Finkbine. The scene is Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1962. "Miss Sherri" is host of a Phoenix-based edition of the popular children's show "Romper Room." Her husband is a high school teacher. They have four children. Pregnant again, Sherri reads a newspaper article describing severe birth defects connected with a sleeping medication, the same one she used after Bob brought some home from a trip to London. Told by the family doctor that the new baby is likely to be deformed, a heartbroken Sherri and Bob decide to terminate the pregnancy.

Within weeks, the family finds it self at the center of a media storm involving hospital administrators, courts and enraged antiabortion forces. Sherri loses her "Romper Room" job, not surprising at a time when television was nervous about even using the word pregnant. Bob is suspended from his job. Hate mail and phone calls pour in. F.B.I. agents are assigned to protect the family. Abortion appointments are made and then nervously canceled. The couple are finally forced to fly to Sweden for the operation.

The movie, directed by Joan Micklin Silver, clearly supports the right of Sherri to make her own choices and the right of the Finkbine family to its privacy. But as depicted, Sherri doesn't necessarily make any of this easy. Although warned by her doctor that any termination of the pregnancy is technically illegal and must be kept quiet, Sherri wastes little time in telling a local reporter that someone in the area has taken the drug, assuming that her identity will be kept secret. When the story explodes, Sherri is revealed through careless handling of hospital records. Initial discretion could have fended off much of the family's subsequent pain.

Then there is the extremely sensitive linking of abortion and disability. The disability and abortion-rights movements have common political goals of self-determination and informed choice based on accurate information. But disability groups stress that abortion should not be extolled as a device to rid society of "defectives." "A Private Matter" is keenly aware of the issue. When a neighbor says she would not have the abortion, Sherri says with admiration, "You're being a saint, thinking about everyone but yourself."

Having the right to make the choice, obviously, is never going to be easy. "This is going to hurt me for the rest of my life," Sherri realizes, "no matter what I do." Sherri and Bob went on to have two more children. They were later divorced. 'On the Air' ABC Tomorrow at 9:30 P.M.

David Lynch and Mark Frost ("Twin Peaks") are again being compulsively different, this time going back to 1957 and the fictional television studios of the Zoblotnick Broadcasting Corporation. Final touches are being put on "The Lester Guy Show," whose star (Ian Buchanan) is clinging to an over-the-hill career. Also on hand are the bubbleheaded ingenue Betty Hudson (Marla Jeanette Rubinoff), a sight-impaired sound-effects technician named Blinky (Tracey Walter), the ferocious network executive Bud Budwaller (Miguel Ferrer) and the director Vladja Golchktch (David L. Lander), whose heavily accented orders have to be translated by the stage manager, Ruth Trueworthy (Nancye Ferguson). Props topple, scenery collapses, tempers flare. Different, certainly, even strange, but unfortunately about as funny as, well, an overworked foreign accent. 'HBO Comedy Hour' 'Roseanne Arnold' HBO Tomorrow at 10:30 P.M.

With Roseanne and Tom Arnold as executive producers, this hourlong special puts the star of television's No. 1 sitcom in a gold lame pantsuit and lets her sound off uninhibitedly before loudly appreciative fans at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. People tend to upset Mrs. Arnold. "We're so hideous," she says, launching into zesty attacks on everybody from supporters of smokers' and animal rights to opponents of abortion and motorcycle helmets. She is tired of fashions that make fat women look like floats in the Rose Bowl Parade. And she's had it with George Bush and the San Diego Padres. And oh, yeah, she thinks it's about time she got an Emmy Award. Her unusual argument is not, however, printable here. A Private Matter HBO Tomorrow at 8 P.M.

Written by William Nicholson; David C. Thomas, producer; Ronnie D. Clemmer, Bill Pace, Sydney Pollack and Lindsay Doran, executive producers. A Longbow Productions film in association with Mirage Enterprises for HBO Pictures. Sherri Chessen Finkbine . . . Sissy Spacek Bob Finkbine . . . Aidan Quinn Mary Chessen . . . Estelle Parsons

To watch clips of On the Air go to

To read about The City of Absurdity: David Lynch's On the Air go to

For an article about On the Air go to
Date: Wed August 23, 2006 � Filesize: 8.5kb � Dimensions: 320 x 240 �
Keywords: On Air: Logo (Links Updated 8/1/18)


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