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`PLAYBACK THE ‘80S’ ON KSL TONIGHT

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Don't think of "Playback the '80s" (9 p.m., Ch. 5), tonight's KSL News locally oriented retrospective on the decade just ending, as an attempt to make sense out of the past 10 years.

The way the KSL News team sees it, there's none to be made."It's been a fascinating 10 years," said KSL News executive producer Janice Evans, who, along with a full staff of editors, has been working on the hour-long special for most of the past six weeks. "But while going through reports of the decade's top stories, we've learned that sometimes you can make sense of it all, and sometimes you can't."

But even though no single theme emerges in the story of the 1980s, Evans said she and her staff have noticed several recurring themes. "Playback the '80s" is grouped according to those themes, including: - disasters (both natural and man-made, ranging from the floods of 1983 to the fires that raged in the western United States during the summer of 1988); - technology and science (from Barney Clark and the artificial heart to the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger to the fusion confusion. "The theme here is hope, but not a promise," Evans said); - and the changing face of Utah and its people (paying special attention to changes in the family and the workplace); There's even a Rogue's Gallery, featuring many of the men and women who helped make Utah famous - or infamous, as the case may be: Arthur Gary Bishop, the Lafferty brothers, Joseph Paul Franklin, Ronnie Lee Gardner, Frances Schreuder, Ted Bundy, John Singer, Ervil LeBaron, Mark Hofmann.

Hosted by KSL's Dick Nourse, Shelley Thomas and Bruce Lindsay, "Playback the '80s" is more than just a montage of sights and sounds from the decade. Rather, Evans said, it is an attempt to "give some perspective."

"The show looks at who we were 10 years ago and who we have become," she said. "We want to be thoughtful, and we want to focus on what has happened to people here."

Which is not to say the program will be completely provincial in its outlook. "We'll look at the world through Utah eyes," Evans said. "But it's surprising how many national and international stories had Utah roots."

Interestingly, the special is anchored by three people who have seen the entire decade from behind KSL microphones - not a unique thing in the world of local television news, but certainly unusual. The faces really do tend to remain the same at KSL.

And "Playback the '80s" will show how much the stories have changed. You'll even be able to see how the technology for covering those stories has changed (pay attention to the footage from the MX missile controversy in the early 1980s. Evans says it looks like early black-and-white filmmaking when compared to today's videotape capabilities).

But mostly, "Playback the '80s" is intended to give viewers a chance to go back in time and remember key events from the past 10 years of their lives.

"It's about the times," Evans said. "But more than that, it's about us."

-TO MAKE ROOM for "Playback the '80s" on the KSL schedule, programmers had to do a little juggling with the CBS schedule. In other words, "Wiseguy" got bounced. But don't worry, Vinnie-ophiles - you haven't been forgotten. At least, not completely. This week's "Wiseguy" episode will be seen on KSL Saturday at 10:35 p.m.

Does that bother you? Then you're really going to be upset when you learn that KSL is going to do it to you again next week, when they bump "Wiseguy" to carry the LDS Church's new holiday special, "Nora's Christmas Gift" starring Celeste Holm and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Once again, the CBS series will be moved to Saturday at 10:35 p.m.

-ON THE TUBE TONIGHT - What a day it's been on TBS, with four-star movies dotting the schedule from early this morning until late tonight. Daytime televiewers could turn to the basic cable service and watch Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn escape those nasty Nazis aboard "The African Queen" at 8:05 this morning, and then stick around to watch Gary Cooper take a stand at "High Noon" (well, OK - actually it was 11:20 a.m. our time). And later this evening you can see Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson in Giant (10:30 p.m., TBS), George Stevens' Oscar-winning 1956 film that did Dallas before "Dallas" did Dallas.

But the centerpiece of all this cinematic excellence is one of the best films ever made: Gone With the Wind (6:05 p.m.), David O. Selznick's 1939 masterpiece that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week. Of course, "GWTW" has been on television before. But because of it's long running time (about three hours and 42 minutes), previous telecasters have always chosen to split it up and show it during two nights. TBS, however, is celebrating the anniversary by presenting this monumental artistic achievement in one four-hour and 25-minute block, which means there will only be about 43 minutes of commercials - well below network standards of about 14 minutes of advertising per hour.

In other words, if you've ever wanted to record this legendary classic, it's never been any easier than it will be tonight. Enjoy!

And as long as we're talking about film classics, holiday movie buffs will go nuts trying to cope with a schedule that includes the Alastair Sim Scrooge (6 p.m., WGN), It's a Wonderful Life (8 p.m., Ch. 11) and Miracle on 34th Street (8 p.m., Ch. 13). Any way you look at it, that's Christmas's Big Three.

More contemporary holiday offerings include Julie and Carol: Together Again (9 p.m., Ch. 4), a variety special reuniting Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett (please see this week's TV Week cover story for more information). And Christmas in America: A Love Story (8 p.m., Ch. 2) features Kenny Rogers and Kenny Rogers Jr. in a story about a famous dad's reunion with his estranged son that is more than a little autobiographical.

Elsewhere, life goes on for Vincent on Beauty and the Beast (7 p.m., Ch. 5); KSTU lobbies for Santa with There Really is a Santa Claus (7 p.m., Ch. 13 - what better companion piece for "Miracle on 34th Street"?); PBS probes The Right to Die (8 p.m., Ch. 7); and KSL News looks back on the past 10 years in Playback the '80s (9 p.m., Ch. 5 - please see today's television column).