TV's 'Playing for Time' plays big

TV's most harrowing and controversial drama in recent years, "Playing for Time," seems to have attracted unexpectedly large audiences despite advertiser skepticism about its popular appeal.

There were reports of boycotts, picketing, and even Molotov-cocktail throwing by some Jewish organizations protesting the casting of actress Vanessa Redgrave, a Palestine Liberation Organization propagandist, as a Jewish cabaret singer in an Auschwitz orchestra. But early overnight Nielsen ratings showed that an average of around 37 percent of all homes watching TV were watching the show.

Monitor television critic Arthur Unger says that, although national figures may change the estimates a bit, probably more than 50 million people throughout the nation viewed the show (which would be more than watched "60 Minutes," the previous week's highest-rated show). Its success, and that of "Shogun," may usher in a new era of literate, "sophisticated" mass entertainment on the commercial networks.

Along those same lines, Monday's premier of the complex Alec Guinness in John le Carre's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" seems to have garnered the highest ever won by a miniseries premiere on PBS.

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