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Eve's Rib and Adam's Yawn

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Picture this: women sit in the executive suites and men in the typing pools. Women are aggressive and combative, and men are meek and passive. Women ogle waiters and crack bad jokes about sex while their male companions sit and fume. Imagine all that and you know most of what you need to know —or want to know—about All That Glitters, Norman Lear's new syndicated TV soap opera, premiering on 40 stations across the country this week.

Lear has made a career out of forcing Americans to laugh at their imperfections in such hits as All in the Family, Maude, Good Times and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. In All That Glitters Lear takes on his biggest subject: sexual habits and stereotypes. In everything but anatomy and dress, the women are men and the men are women. Out of that basic conceit flow—or, more precisely, meander—all jokes and situations. "Our premise is simple," explains Lear. "God created Eve first, took out her rib and gave her a companion so she wouldn't be lonely. This was Adam. I think the audience will be fascinated to watch the endless role playing and, more important, to discern the similarities in the needs, hopes and fears shared by all human beings, regardless of gender."

The first episodes center on the troubles at Globatron, a giant conglomerate run by a terrible-tempered tyrant everyone calls "L.W."—a woman, of course. Globatron is about to spend $125 million on a new ad campaign to promote Wilmington beer. Since women are the beer drinkers in this upside-down world (beer is considered too vulgar for men), Globatron has created the Wilmington Woman, the ideal consumer. The only problem is—shades of Myra Breckinridge—that the Wilmington Woman (Linda Gray) turns out to be a transsexual. While the board of Globatron considers this staggering information, the Wilmington Woman is kidnaped by some Okies. And so on into confusion.

Along the way come the wearying jokes. The Globatron secretaries are sleek young men, and their female bosses can't take their eyes away from the male derrière, packed into tight pants, as it passes out the door. "Cutest little bottom in the office, right, Christina?" says L.W. to one of her underlings as sexy Secretary Dan (Gary Sandy) leaves the board room. Christina, as L.W. seems to know, is making it with Dan. Christina's househusband Bert (Chuck McCann), meantime, frets at home, taking care of the kids, gaining weight —and wondering why Christina no longer shows any interest in him.

Lois Nettleton, who plays Christina, says she has modeled her own character on Clark Gable, which may be the best clue yet to what All That Glitters is about. Barbara Baxley, the terrifying L.W., says that she didn't need a model. "As an actress, I've been aggressive and independent most of my life." She adds: "The great fun of the show is that Norman has created a whole new world. The cast has discovered that men and women are mutually misunderstood. If this show isn't considered revolutionary —and if people don't understand it—then I say to hell with them."

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