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A soap star's epiphany is the basis for PBS' latest drama.

See "Red"


Writing about bad TV is easy. Writing about good TV is hard.

Bad TV is such an easy target. All you have to do is turn your fingers loose on the keyboard and a review of a bad TV program practically writes itself. You get to use all sorts of fun similes and metaphors that are a joy to create — or steal — like "It's longer than the Al-Can Highway, but without the pretty scenery," or "It's duller than the finish on a 5-year-old Yugo," or "It's as thrilling as an induction physical."

The TV critic doesn't owe his or her soul to anybody in the broadcast industry. So if a program is really baaaaad, you can just let loose and have great fun at the program's expense. Your only duty is to the reader, and if walking a pee-shy toy poodle on a dark and stormy night makes more sense than watching X, Y or Z program, then you're doing your readers a service by warning them.

TV may be free— once you've bought the set, paid the cable or satellite bill and purchased a universal remote to replace the one that's lost somewhere in the sofa cushions — but viewers still have to invest their time. And time is what we have too little of nowadays.

Writing about good TV, however, is hard. All you have to do, as writers often say, is sit down at the keyboard and open a vein.

Writing a good review is tricky for me because I have this silly notion that what I write should rise to the quality level of what I'm writing about. If I'm really impressed by a program — if I think it's worth your time — then it's worth my best effort to persuade you to see it.

That's why, although the temptation to write about dreadful TV is great because it's fun and easy, you'll see a lot more reviews of first-class programs than bad ones in this space.

So here's this week's tip: Watch "Seeing Red."

Based on a memoir written 10 years ago by British actress Coral Atkins, "Seeing Red" is about a popular TV soap star of the 1970s who has an epiphany in a loo.

Worn down while still in her 30s by five-days-a-week television, raising a child on her own, and, yes, too many pills and too much liquor, she's well on the way to becoming the prettiest corpse you've ever seen (see note on theft, above). As "Seeing Red" opens, she's sitting in a restroom smoking a cigarette and powdering her nose, taking a break from a charity event at a home for disturbed children. That's when she hears a child begin to scream, and scream, and scream. Carol is enraged when a staff members says simply, "She does that now and again." For Carol, the incident brings back dark memories of her own childhood. Thus, without any background in psychology or any credentials at all, Carol decides to open a home of her own for problem children. It may sound hokey — and if it does, this is not the program for you — but what Carol does have to offer is love, unconditionally.

What she finds out is that love is all you need. Well, love along with patience, endurance, a penchant for battling bureaucracy and lots of money, plus a huge sense of humor. And as the saga unfolds, Carol finds out why she literally hasn't been able to see the color red since she was a child.

As Atkins says today of her life, "It's been a privilege." And so is watching "Seeing

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