It's hard to blame CBS News for trying to draft off all the attention focused on the Oscars this weekend, but the special "Vanity Fair's Hollywood" -- playing Saturday night, and produced under the aegis of the "48 Hours" team -- yields a very mixed goodie bag.
The opening and closing portion of the hour plays like some cloying electronic-press kit for Vanity Fair, touting how wonderful it is to attend the magazine's annual Oscar party -- an event "so exclusive even the stars are starstruck." Well, yippee for them.
Sandwiched in between, though, is one very good piece culled from the magazine, and two OK ones.
The only real reason to watch any part of the hour is a profile of Merv Adelson, the former Lorimar power broker who lost a fortune in the AOL-Time Warner deal and now lives in a very modest apartment. Including interviews with Adelson and pal George Schlatter, it's one of those segments that actually leaves you hungry for more.
The others, in descending order of interest, recap the impact and influence of "Pulp Fiction" (with John Travolta, pictured, among those participating); and profile Megan Ellison, the 27-year-old producer of "Zero Dark Thirty." The press-shy Ellison wouldn't be interviewed, and while writing around a subject is doable in magazine circles, it's more awkward in the language of television.
Mostly, the hour offers a pretty clear demonstration of the sort of banality broadcast news tends to churn out when covering Hollywood -- even with the imprimatur and assistance of Vanity Fair, which ostensibly endeavors to approach the town with a greater level of sophistication. And while one can see why the magazine benefits from what amounts to an extended infomercial for its brand, it's hard to understand what CBS News gains from the exercise other than the fleeting star power of having Halle Berry and Tom Hanks among those delivering testimonials.
Granted, it's nice to take a break from the mayhem on "48 Hours," but not much of an improvement if they're going to replace it with a glorified version of "OMG! Insider."