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Tuesday, August 11, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Now, Finally, Spud Gets A Shot At Nationally Broadcast TV

Spud Goodman has friends in UHF places.

Spud, in case the name doesn't register, has toiled since 1985 on various local cable channels, extending the foul lines of the television talk show genre. When last seen, Spud was asking a pro athlete whether he threw his socks out after every game.

Now, finally, Spud gets his shot at the bigs - broadcast television. OK, it's one of the channels higher than number 13, up in the Ultra-High Frequency range, but it's still broadcast TV.

KTZZ (Channel 22) plans to plant Spud for a 13-week trial run of his talk show this fall and see if anything sprouts. Details are still in the hammering-out stages. Too late to back out of, though, is an hour-long special Spud "career retrospective," the cunningly titled "Somebody Up There is Ambivalent About Me." KTZZ will air it Saturday at 10 p.m.

So nervous is Spud about clicking with a mass audience that at the start of the show we see him wander into a church to petition a higher power. "I beg of you," says Spud, head bowed, "don't let me be another McLean Stevenson."

Not likely.

"Somebody Up There" pastes together a nice scrapbook of moments that capture the essence of Spud - waving around a spatula, asking inane questions of serious guests or serious questions of inane guests, sometimes fighting to be heard above the din of his toadying sidekick Chick or his "orchestra," an Elvis-impersonating accordionist.

"It's not a mistake," explained executive producer Lani Edenholm. "It's controlled chaos."

"We take people who are real, or maybe not so real, but people who have lost a few shingles in the last storm, and let them be themselves."

Spud's guests run the gamut from politician to retired children's TV show host - come to think of it, not such a wide gamut after all.

"How boring to watch the latest entertainer come out and answer the same questions" on most talk shows, said Edenholm. "It's like a Japanese tea ceremony - everyone knows what's going to happen. With Spud you don't know."

CABLE TV's innovative TripleCast offered 180 or so hours of live Olympics coverage from Barcelona. The relatively tepid response by viewers raised a lot of questions, including: How much television is enough?

It's a question echoed by the satellite dishes you see sprouting like 10-foot mushrooms outside more and more homes.

On a recent typical Tuesday night, a flick of the dish could enable you to choose from more than 60 movies, five major league baseball games and a show called "Backyard Farmer." Another flick and you could watch local newscasts from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver or Boston. Earlier in the day, another flick would grab the 12:30 p.m. feed of that night's "Entertainment Tonight."

"Satellite TV offers everything that cable promised and hasn't delivered," says George Bryant, publicist for "Satellite TV Week," one of the leading program guides for satellite TV (SATV) watchers.

Bryant traveled from the magazine's Northern California headquarters to Seattle recently to talk about his favorite subject: television available in bulk.

He rattled off a lot of statistics about SATV: about 3.8 million U.S. homes already own a dish; the typical rig costs about $3,000; Washington is one of the states (along with California, Oregon and Idaho) where dishes are sprouting the fastest; meanwhile, the size of dishes keep shrinking, from a 12-foot diameter down to around the current 7 1/2-footer.

Direct Broadcast Satellite systems, like the much-delayed one proposed by Kent-based SkyPix, promise relatively tiny 3-foot dishes and dozens of movies.

"People will find out it's like cable, delivered with a small dish," Bryant sniffed. "A slightly larger (SATV) dish will give them all these sports."

One of the most interesting notes: According to a survey among some of Satellite TV Week's 415,000 subscribers, after an initial period of gorging, new SATV owners soon become more selective and watch fewer hours of TV than before they bought the dish, Bryant said.

THE LEUKEMIA SOCIETY of America's sixth annual telethon airs this Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m. on KING-TV (Channel 5).

In the last three decades, chances for surviving leukemia have more than doubled, to 35 percent. Researchers are working to increase the odds even higher. That takes money. And that's where TV comes in.

Scheduled to appear on this year's fund-raising telecast: Shirley Jones ("The Partridge Family"), Kirk Cameron ("Growing Pains") and Fred Savage ("The Wonder Years").

HAPPY HAPPY, Joy Joy Countdown: Days until Nickelodeon unveils the long-awaited new episode of "The Ren & Stimpy Show": four.

Published Correction Date: 08/12/92 - This Article Listed An Incorrect Date For The Leukemia Telethon On King-TV (Channel 5). The Telethon Is Aug. 22 From Noon To 5 P.M.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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