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'Love Tapes' on PBS

By Arthur Unger / February 12, 1982



How does this strike you as a television special: ordinary people -- well, maybe just a bit exhibitionist -- looking uncomfortably into the camera and self-consciously talking for three minutes about love?

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The idea struck independent producer Wendy Clarke as so remarkable that she managed to get financial support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the New York State Council on the Arts, and then, later, from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She managed to record in black-and-white video more than 800 such tapes at a variety of locations. All participants were allowed to erase their tapes if they wished.

''Love Tapes'' (PBS, Sunday, Feb. 14 -- St. Valentine's Day, get it? -- 11:30 p.m.-midnight, check local listings) is a collection of a few of those tapes, uncut. There was another version shown regionally on some PBS stations several seasons ago.

There's certainly nothing wrong with making people more aware of the need for love in our society. And it is possible that some viewers may find personal revelation in a few of the remarks on TV. But in general, if there are any revelations in ''Love Tapes,'' they come in the area of the participants' lack of understanding of themselves.

Since all of the love-definers were aware they were being recorded, there is a great deal of posturing, nervousness, half-thought-out, semi-prepared opinions. And since a TV monitor was in their line of view, there is a lot of preening, too.