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Entertainment comes in a magazine format

Entertainment Weekly, the first magazine launch since Time and Warner got hitched, is now on the newsstands for everyone to see. It's an ambitious effort to steer today's entertainment maven through the latest offerings in television, books, music, movies and video. The bulk of the magazine is given over to reviews, a few long ones, many short ones, blunt when they need to be and capped by a letter grade: A, B+, etc. The pages are chockablock with other little doodahs _ newsy items, charts, factoids, previews, excerpts, best-of lists. There's a tear-out "cue card" at the back of the book offering capsules of the capsules; a special section for kids' entertainment, and another on technology; and what the editors hope will be a lively reader response section.

The jumbled mess of the first cover perfectly introduces the artistic concept within: the deliberate clutter of typefaces and column sizes and graphic gimcrackery that prevails today in magazine design. You could page through Entertainment Weekly two or three times and still not be entirely sure you'd seen everything, which _ in fairness _ is probably just the idea.

Although conceived as a consumer guide, the magazine can't resist the temptation to deploy a few regular features _ not about personalities, the editors insist (that's sister People's franchise), but about entertainment products. In issue No. 1, the best of these stories is an update on Married .

.

. With Children one year after Terry Rakolta, a Michigan parent outraged over the program's crude and suggestive material, pressured its commercial sponsors to withdraw their support.

According to writers Gene Seymour and Veronica Byrd, executives at many sponsoring companies quickly wrote Rakolta to say they were shocked, shocked to learn they were underwriting such naughty stuff and would never do it again. But a year later, what do you know _ almost all of the sponsors are still advertising on Married .

.

. With Children, and for good reason _ the show is hot. "In short," reason Seymour and Byrd, "free speech is safe from Terry Rakolta."

Entertainment Weekly's critical approach mimics that of its parent (People) and grandparent (Time), a style of quip-ridden middlebrowsing that has proved serviceable over the years and doubtless will for many more. The target audience is on the young side _ three of the five "entertainments," after all, are movies, TV and video, and the music reviewed is heavily non-classical. Only the book section manages to reflect a broader cultural and demographic spectrum, but that may be because reading, however pitiable these days, still remains an adult habit.

Theater? Dance? Art? Don't look here. "We cover what's at your local 'plex instead of what's on Broadway," writes founding editor Jeff Jarvis, "because more than 200-million of you don't live in New York (you lucky ducks)." That's entertainment.

(For four free issues, followed by a pitch to subscribe, write Entertainment Weekly, P.O. Box 60898, Tampa, Fla. 33660-0898.)

New York _ live

Malcolm Forbes's new magazine Egg is for the unlucky ducks who live in New York and Los Angeles and who like their entertainment live _ in clubs and such. The inaugural issue (March) fairly thrums with the metropolitan '90s night _ the dark, crowded, smoky, surly, stagy underworld of deafening amps and $10 drinks and waiting in line.

Yes, Egg is sort of like Details, and sort of like Interview (which Forbes tried to buy), with a clunky but affecting design and a striking trim size: It's square.

The prose in here has attitude to spare, and the contents have a high (and highly derivative) shtick count: "Hollywood Squares 2000," with regular guests Twyla Tharp, Eric Bogosian and Lech Walesa. "Clubs Made Easy," with such key indicators of New York nightspots as number of cabs outside, ratio of black clothes to other colors and bathroom cleanliness. And a celebration of firefighters as sex objects. Egg's first cover story? William E. Geist's marvelous homage to Entertainment Tonight host Mary Hart's apparently sensational legs.

Also very, very funny, but for different reasons, is Malcolm Forbes's official letter of greeting, "Why Egg?" (10 issues $10: Egg, 60 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10114-0597).

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