The slim little light-foot guy with his gay, ageless grace had a good excuse for the jitters: this was the first time he had put on a TV show of his own. But aging (59) Dancing Master Fred Astaire needed only to walk into camera range to demonstrate that he is still attuned to his old rhythmic magic, still in charge of his old, easy charm.

By the time Astaire appeared on-screen last week, the networks were desolate from days of embarrassment. It should have been a great week, with no fewer than eight "specials" scheduled, costing a total...

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