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"Trash TV"

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Having been burned during last November's "sweeps" by what they call "the freak-show specials on Fox," the producers of Diagnosis Murder, Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin, counterprogram with a two-hour episode called Trash TV (Thursday, April 29; 8 to 10 p.m.; CBS), in which they bring on their own "Pox television network," their own "reality show" excess, and their own Masked Magician, who may have been killed to keep him from exposing the secrets of his brethren -- but then how to explain all those other murders, of producers and stars and TV executives, all of whom have something to do with Thursday night?

Stephen J. Cannell, best known as a writer and producer, is himself the star of the show, as a producer not only willing to stoop to anything for ratings but to positively grovel. Little does he know that he's actually competing with organized crime. While the usual cast of Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan, Barry Van Dyke as his detective-son Steve, Victoria Rowell as Amanda Bentley, and Charlie Schlatter as Jesse Travis run around the usual hospital set, they are interfered with by more old-time TV favorite faces than might have shown up in a season of Jessica Fletchers -- from Pat Harrington and Danny Bonaduce to Robert Ito and Jerry Mathers to Tony Dow and Adrian Zmed. If the satire seems to sag a bit in the second hour, the problem is probably how in the first place to make fun of what's already such shameless self-parody.


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