The Russians are invading! American commercial television, that is. Everybody's getting into the TV newsmagazine business this summer. First there was NBC with Roger Mudd acting as host to ``American Almanac,'' then CBS with its disco-beat ``West 57th.'' Now here comes ``Moscow Meridian'' (SPN/cable, Sunday, Aug. 25, 10:30-11:30 p.m.; repeated Wed. Aug. 28, 3:30-4:30 p.m.).
SPN (Satellite Program Network) has been involved in international programming for the past five years, airing series from all over the globe. It is a free service which now reaches 11 million households on 550 cable systems.
``Moscow Meridian,'' with Vladimir Posner serving as host, Russia's well-known officially sanctioned journalist, is strictly a Russian propaganda film, highlighting the Russia its rulers want the world to see.
There are shots of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Leningrad meeting the people, a visit to the Moscow Kremlin with the history of this medieval fortress, some playful moments in Gorky Park, a short interview with Peter Ustinov, fleeting footage on US-USSR spacebridges, a bit of the Moiseyev dancers, and a tape of Autograph, the Russian rock group that performed on the recent ``Live Aid'' program. A serving of weak borsch, without even a potato.
This premi`ere special is supposed to be the first of a series.
It's all harmlessly amusing, totally predictable footage, interrupted occasionally by, would you believe, commercials for the Smithsonian and Audubon magazines. (According to an SPN program sales representative, ``The Russians just buy the time as a public service; we fill in the commercials.'')
``Public service,'' in this case, is a loose euphemism for propaganda. I wonder if we would be allowed to buy ``public service'' time on Soviet television.
``Moscow Meridian'' serves one major purpose for American television: It makes you appreciate all of the American TV newsmagazines which at least try to feature relevant subject matter.
If you were expecting ``Moscow Meridian'' to feature hard-hitting interviews with Jewish dissidents, Politburo figures, and Afghan freedom fighters, comrade, have you got the wrong channel.