PBS: `Trying Times' and `Ring of Truth'

The presentation of PBS's new fall season is nearing its climax with the premi`eres this week of two new six-part series, Trying Times (Mondays, 10-10:30 p.m.) and The Ring of Truth (Tuesdays, 9-10 p.m., check local listings). Altogether, the Public Broadcasting Service is introducing 14 new series. ``Trying Times'' claims to be ``an innovative comedy anthology series offering a unique humorous perspective on the trials and tribulations of contemporary life.'' Many acting, writing, and directing stars are taking part. The premi`ere segment, ``A Family Tree,'' was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Beth Henley and comedian Budge Threlkeld, directed by Jonathan Demme, and stars Rosanna Arquette, Hope Lange, and David Byrne. It is awkward, distasteful, unfunny. Next week's ``Drive, She Said'' stars Teri Garr, is written by Wendy Wasserstein, and is directed by Sheldon Larry. They can't help but do better.

In ``The Ring of Truth'' Philip Morrison, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explores the inner workings of science, under one-word titles like ``Mapping'' and ``Change.''

The initial episode, called ``Looking,'' focuses on human sight and the instruments associated with it. Professor Morrison tries to hold down on pedanticism, but he seems haunted by the inspired performance of an unforgettable predecessor, Prof. Jacob Bronowski, host of ``The Ascent of Man.''

``The Ring of Truth'' is not in that class, but it has enough of the ring of intellectual revelation to hold viewers who want to be entertained while they are being educated.

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