Jacques Cousteau TV special: an exploration into the explorer himself

It all started, the legend goes, at a summer camp in upstate New York when a 12-year-old French schoolboy named Jacques was ordered to clean the bottom of the lake as punishment for an infringement of the camp rules. Now, 63 years later, Jacques Cousteau is still engaged in crucial underwater activities. Jacques Cousteau: The First 75 Years (WTBS, the Turner SuperStation, from Atlanta, Sunday, June 23, 8:05-10:05 p.m.; repeated July 4 and July 7; on local stations in most major broadcast markets between June 23 and July 23, check local listings) is a celebration of the years between the lake in New York and the waterways of the world.

In between, Captain Jacques has made about 70 extraordinary films about the extraordinary world of the underseas. But one of the most extraordinary films of all is this two-hour exploration into the life of the explorer himself on the occasion of his 75th birthday. It has just about everything concerning the world under water except 75 underwater candles. It overflows with old snapshots, early 8-mm footage, snippets from various Cousteau features, and recent activities of the good captain. Jack Lemmon and Jos'e Ferrer share hosting honors with son Jean-Michel Cousteau.

This preview is based on a special taped sampling, since as of press time the celebratory film was not completed in order to give producers John Soh and Bill Sweeney time to add the most recent material.

If you've ever wondered how the beached captain lives, this film takes you right into his harborfront apartment in Monte Carlo and introduces you to his wife and his dog. It allows him to discuss his plans for the next 75 years -- a five-year round-the-world journey in the overhauled Calypso; further experimentation with a revolutionary wind-propulsion engine which he feels will transform world shipping; and voyages to New Zealand, New Guinea, and the North Pole -- mainly because he has never been there. There is a great deal of footage that has never been seen before, according to WTBS.

It may take a bit of detective work to find ``The First 75 Years'' if you are not a cable subscriber with WTBS on your dial. But since stations in just about every area in the country are rapidly signing up to broadcast this celebration, chances are you'll see it advertised locally soon. If you don't want to risk it, however, the Turner Program Services, TBS, Atlanta, will probably be able to inform you which station in your area has cleared it for the air in June or July.

Under a new agreement with Turner, the Cousteau Society has contracted to produce 20 more hours of original programming through 1990 for telecasting on WTBS and TBS syndication. So if you want to play underwater games with Jacques Cousteau, you'd better discover where WTBS is on your cable dial or which stations subscribe to WTBS syndication.

``Jacques Cousteau: The First 75 Years'' is only the beginning. And what a swimmingly good beginning it is !

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