Guests: Dawn Steel, Sandra Bernhard.
Beginning its third season, KCET’s heralded socio-political talk and docu series tonight features its weekly “Arts & Culture” spoke, chaired this time by series co-host, earnest, preppy Hugh Hewitt. Featured guests are indie producer Dawn Steel, flogging her new autobiography in an in-studio interview, and comic actress Sandra Bernhard, flogging her new autobiography in unhosted docu segment taped at Chateau Marmont.
Hewitt sits with a yellow legal pad in his lap but never consults it, which may be why he identifies Steel as former production head of Paramount and “the first woman to head a major studio (Columbia),” but never specifies her current position.
Had he paid more attention to the notes, Hewitt might have also gotten the title of Steel’s book right before the third mention (it’s “They Can Kill You, but They Can’t Eat You”), and pronounced Peter Guber’s name correctly, not “Gruber.”
However, the 15-minute interview covers a fair amount of territory, commendably avoiding sensationalism — Steel’s love life, for instance, or her former position in marketing at Penthouse — in favor of allowing her to try to explain what a studio head does and comment on women’s roles in the biz.
She never experienced overt sexism, she says, and launched the careers of many other now-successful women.
Hewitt tends to give multiple-choice questions, i.e., “Was it your intention to mentor them because they were women, or because they were talented studio executives?” This allows his subject to easily reach for the more noble answer, but Steel generally comes across as bright, witty and not too bitter about past political conflicts.
Bernhard seg shows her reading excerpts from her “Love, Love and Love” to an adoring audience, then intercuts her quotes with archival footage from old standup routines, her recurring role on “Roseanne” and film appearances. Bernhard deserves more time.