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In Search of Angels

NBC's two-hour session in May with angelic forces didn't provide much substantial hype for the winged creatures. PBS and Perennial Prods. now make a stab at it and, with Debra Winger narrating the uncredited script and with ambassadors without portfolio -- except for a quietly enthusiastic rabbi -- there's again the flutter of wings on the TV airwaves. At least it's pretty.

With:
Narrator: Debra Winger.

NBC’s two-hour session in May with angelic forces didn’t provide much substantial hype for the winged creatures. PBS and Perennial Prods. now make a stab at it and, with Debra Winger narrating the uncredited script and with ambassadors without portfolio — except for a quietly enthusiastic rabbi — there’s again the flutter of wings on the TV airwaves. At least it’s pretty.

The purpose is firmer, which helps, and the program’s halfas long as NBC’s, a decided plus.

Airing on other PBS outlets on Aug. 17, at 8 p.m., the sleekly produced program is gracefully directed by Ken Short, based on a book by David Connolly.

“Search” invites authors associated with works about angels to talk about angels; one and all, they’re in favor of them.

A woman, writer of three successful volumes on the subject, tips her hand when she confesses, “We absolutely adore the idea that there is somebody up there watching over us.” Not a new concept, since it’s been around at least from the days of Egyptian deities.

Though they’re usually associated with Judaism, Christianity and Islam, angels appear among different cultures, as one of the authors delicately puts it; she mentions nothing about black, Asian or Eskimo angels, and none are pictured.

Singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones, confessing she and her small daughter have no religious background, marvels over her little girl apparently conversing with angels.

Rabbi Mordecai Finley reports on angels surrounding beds at night, but no others of the cloth appear during the program to consider angels.

The producers have photographed some high art depicting angels: statues, stained glass and oil paintings, including the Marc Chagall mural on the ceiling of the Paris Opera.

The program observes carved stone figures in cemeteries, incorporates scenes from theatrical feats, serves viewers by listing Saint Ambrose’s 4th-century categorization of angels and St. Dionysius’ codification a century later, and delivers an abbreviated but engrossing rundown of Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” With drawings.

At such times, “Angels” takes flight; otherwise, fools rush in where angels wouldn’t dream of going. The music by Tim Story buoys up the program’s visuals, and the hour is salted with readings from Bartlett’s.

Polls by CBS and Time/CNN proclaim that 70% of all Americans believe angels exist. That should boost the ratings.

In Search of Angels

(Thurs. (11), 7:30-8:30 p.m., KCET)

Production: Filmed in Paris, Vienna, Rome, Vatican City, N.Y.C., L.A. and Pasadena by Perennial Prods. Inc. Producer, Janis Blackschleger; co-producer, JoAnn Young; director, Ken Short; based on book by David Connolly.

Crew: Camera, Jeri Sopanen; editor, Walt Louie; visual effects, Pittard Sullivan Fitzgerald; theme, music, Tim Story.

Cast: Narrator: Debra Winger.

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