'ABC News Closeup's' documentary blitz
Pamela Hill, ABC News executive vice-president and executive producer of the 'ABC News Closeup' documentary unit, is a complex combination of talents and tentions.Skip to next paragraph
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In a uniquely assertive, yet still retiring, way she is responsibly news-oriented; somewhat inarticulately intelligent (I have seen her shiver and shudder before getting up to make a speech to TV critics . . . but then again, who wouldn't shudder at that?); marvelously receptive to new ideas; and in the long run, one of the most innovative executives in the network news business today.
Dressed for work and interview in what looks like a purple-pink bulky wool peasant tunic which reaches to the top of her gray suede boots (I am wearing a Black Watch tartan jacket and black tasseled loafers, in case my sexism is in question again), if she wore sunglasses on top of her head she would look like the Hollywood version of a fashion-magazine editor. But when she speaks she is definitely a newsperson . . . with strong beliefs about the place of the documentary in television and the need to safeguard it from the encroachment of entertainment values.
This next seven days is probably one of the busiest periods ever for any documentary executive. Three 'ABC News Closeup' documentaries have been scheduled within the span of a single week: "The Shattered Badge" (Saturday, Dec. 27, 10-11 p.m.); "A Matter of Survival" (Thesday, Dec. 30, 10-11 p.m.); and "Invasion" (Thursday, Jan. 1, 9:30-11 p.m.); check local listings for all of these shows.
I have viewed all three in one form or another (finished, nearly finished, unedited), and they constitute a fabulous trilogy, pinpointing the wide varieties of excellence audiences have come to expect from Pamela Hill and her senior producer, Richard Richter, working in conjunction with an extraordinary staff of talented TV-documentary makers. Perhaps one of Miss Hill's greatest talents is her ability to break the outmoded patterns and rules that old-timers in the documentary field believed could never be broken in today's competitive commercial-TV market.
"The Shattered Badge," produced and written by Paul Altmeyer, is probably one of the fairest and best documentaries ever made about the role of the policeman in our society. In investigates the unbearable stresses that make the job "the hardest job in America today," causing an enormously high divorce and suicide rate. Filled with shockingly honest revelations by policeman and former policemen, the documentary looks at Philadelphia and Boston, in particular, and comes up with the conclusion expressed by a Boston policeman that "the job builds human bombs," liable to explode at any moment.
If this superb documentary has one major weakness, it is the same weakness many 'ABC Closeups' share -- the lack of a commentator-host such as Bill Moyers to give a pertinent, conscientious overview. But "The Shattered Badge" performs a much-needed public service in exposing the stresses and strains of law enforcement in society. It is a sure prizewinning documentary, which will be quoted, rerun, and remembered for along time to come.
"A Matter of Survival," produced by Phil Lewis with correspondent Tom Jarriel , is a penetrating look at Jamaica within the framework of the Caribbean and the whole third-world attempt to find a survival method in a world dominated by richer nations. While the documentary concentrates on Jamaica and its recent change from socialist to capitalist government, it presents an engrossing overview of the major problems of all such emerging nations, not just the problems of Jamaica. It is a fascinatingly informative and at the same time entertaining film.
"Invasion" is, perhaps, the most innovative of the three and is a prime example of Pam Hill's receptivity to new ideas . . . and, in a way, her fearlessness in pushing ahead. "Invasion" is a long, complex British (Granada TV) "drama-documentary" which reenacts the Russian interference in Czechoslovakia in 1968. It dramatizes the invasion and the political battles within the Czechoslovakia Communist Party and within the Kremlin. Produced and directed by Leslie Woodhead, "Invasion" is based on the eyewitness account of Zdenek Mlyner, secretary of the Central Committee of the Czech Communist Party, a close friend of former First Secretary Alexander Dubcek. Both men went to the Soviet Union with other Czech officials and suffered deep himiliation at the hands of Brezhnev.