Review: "Pioneers of Television"

Reason to watch: Second-season launch Tuesday covers science fiction. Next Tuesday, it's Westerns, followed by crime (Feb. 1) and local kids' TV (Feb. 8).

When/Where: Tuesday night at 8 on WNET/ 13 and Saturday at 8 p.m. on WLIW/ 21

Sci fi's 'Pioneers of Television'

William Shatner as Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as

William Shatner as Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Spock on "Star Trek." (Credit: PBS Photo)

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Just three old series form the bulk of this hour on science fiction - "Star Trek," "Lost in Space" and "The Twilight Zone" - filled with many interviews. They include Billy Mumy and Angela Cartwright of "Lost in Space." (Two of the series' biggest stars have died. Bob May, who played the Robot, died two years ago, and Jonathan Harris - Zachary Smith - died in 2002.) From "Trek," we hear from William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols and Leonard Nimoy. An old interview of Rod Serling, who died in 1975, is part of the "TZ" segment.

Many factoids will be well known to Trekkers - Gene Roddenberry's long struggle to get the show on the air; Nichols' near-resignation before the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. talked her out of it; Shatner's clever ruse to kiss Nichols on camera; and how Nimoy stumbled on the pronunciation of the word "fascinating." It's fascinating.

MY SAY "Pioneers of TV" launched last year and served to remind most of us why we loved TV so much in the first place. "Pioneers" is celebratory, never fussy but always generous. In "Pioneers' " hands, "Lost in Space" creator Irwin Allen becomes an auteur - a cheap, eccentric auteur, but an auteur, nonetheless.

The hour is playful and fun and never censorious - except of network suits, who have always been richly deserving of censure. Plus, Shatner's wonderful stories never grow old, no matter how many times we've heard them.

BOTTOM LINE One little gripe - "Pioneers" needed to give a tip of the space helmet to some '50s pioneers, such as "Captain Video" and "Flash Gordon." Otherwise, it's all pleasure.

GRADE B+

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