TNN (Sat., April 13, 10 P.M. ET)
Jerry Jeff Walker got all spruced up in formal, if Westernized, duds to serve as the music show's new host. Considering his casual company on the special, one-hour season premiere, he's a mite overdressed.
Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson join Walker for a cozy sit-down session of pickin' and tellin' stories. Kristofferson isn't in good voice, but he sure has his wits about him, even ribbing Willie about his tax problems by noting, "You oughta know what I'm talking about" when in the chorus of "Me and Bobbie McGee" he sings, "Freedom's just another word/ For nothing left to lose."
Nickelodeon (Sundays, 6:30 P.M. ET)
The title is a little overstated. The main character in this comedy series for and about adolescents doesn't really talk about everything. But, addressing the camera directly, she does a pretty good job of clueing us in on her little corner of the universe.
Okay, like, she likes Twizzlers, Johnny Depp
and the guy without the glasses in the pop group They Might Be Giants. What she doesn't like is her name—she'd prefer Jade—home haircuts or her younger brother, a constant source of embarrassment, her "least favorite emotion."
As Clarissa, a '90s girl with a mall-derived fashion sense, Melissa Joan Hart does a fine job of tempering her cynicism with insouciance. She makes this silly but hip show into a sort of post-Pee-wee sitcom.
NBC (Sun., April 14, 9 P.M. ET)
In this TV movie, Bruce (St. Elsewhere) Greenwood plays a raffish, muckraking columnist banished to a dead-end job by his newspaper's publisher (Donald Moffat). Greenwood is a less smirky version of the reporter Chevy Chase plays in those Fletch movies, i.e., a master of disguise and the quick quip.
With the help of a prissy intern (Jessica Steen), he takes a nothingburger little story about a desert tinkerer and uncovers a huge fat-cat scam. Gregg Henry plays Greenwood's mentor, a dissolute journalist given to tropical shirts and hangovers.
With this failed pilot, writer-producer Stephen (The A Team) Cannell serves a souped-up version of his specialty: vivid, utterly implausible main characters, kick-in-the-pants storytelling and substandard action scenes.
CBS (Sun., April 14, 9 P.M. ET)
When a pregnant woman goes into a coma following a car accident, her husband is caught in a dilemma, weighing her welfare against that of the fetus. His decision embroils him in a heated legal battle with pro-life activists—one that grows increasingly desperate as the pregnancy advances.
Henry Winkler and Jennifer Hetrick, Arnie's estranged wife on L.A. Law, play the couple in this dull drama, which also stars Richard Kiley, Karl Malden, Patty Duke and Mitchell Laurence.
The flatness of the fact-based movie (the case involved a New York couple in 1989) is due primarily to Winkler's oddly understated performance. At first, you assume he's playing the role as a man overwhelmed by tragedy. But, except for one overdue outburst, he never opens up the character. That emotional torpor anesthetizes the entire film.
ABC (Mon., April 15, 9 P.M. ET)
James Woods plays a Hollywood writer who develops lung cancer, presumably from daily contact with his longtime chain-smoking collaborator (John Lithgow). Eve Gordon and Joanna Gleason play the women in their lives. William Link wrote the script, loosely based on his own partnership with the late Richard Levinson, with whom he created such hit series as Mannix, McCloud, Columbo and Murder, She Wrote. (In real life, it was Levinson who was the three-pack-a-day chimney. He died of a massive coronary in 1987.)
To its detriment, the movie never really confronts any of the issues it raises. Instead it attempts to treat Woods's final days with a sort of Odd Couple gallows humor—though Link's stale dialogue is more Simple Simon than Neil.
Lithgow gets all the showbizzy blather, as when he discusses a project with a producer on the phone: "You'll get it. We're the old pros, right? You'll get it good, and you'll get it quick."
Woods gets such babble as, "I feel incomplete, like a left glove waiting for a right glove. My old problem...incompleteness."
Since his character is a recovering alcoholic (yet another undeveloped theme), Woods does get to play a scene at an AA meeting. In his last TV role two seasons ago, Woods portrayed AA founder Bill Wilson. It's fitting that the evening's only ironic note should be struck unintentionally.
NBC (Mon., April 15, 9 P.M. ET)
Mare Winningham plays Prudence Crandall, a teacher in 1830s Connecticut who risked public censure and a jail term for admitting blacks to her girls school. Ben Cross plays William Lloyd Garrison, the Boston abolitionist who supported her.
Taurean Blacque and Robert Desiderio also appear in this historical morality play, which is oppressively sanctimonious and stiff as a whalebone corset.
ABC (Tuesdays, 9:30 P.M. ET)
This sitcom is set in the maelstrom of a Manhattan emergency room (the title is medical parlance for "urgent"). But it's clear that executive producer Danny Arnold has simply dusted off the blueprint for his previous creation, Barney Miller.
Instead of Hal Linden, Dennis Boutsikaris is the pivotal figure as the bossman wading through chaos and a grab bag of extravagantly eccentric New Yorkers. This time the purlieu is in a hospital instead of a precinct house.
Regulars include Alix Elias as the over-fastidious insurance administrator and, as doctors, Casey Biggs and the wonderfully dry Alison LaPlaca.
The show is raucous, colorful and more than a little gross. So far, however, the humor, like the emergency room environment, is merely frantic.
>REALLY SPECIAL, SPECIAL GUESTS Amid the stream of reruns this week on Nick at Nite, there's a raft of notable guest appearances. On Thursday (April 11, 1 A.M. ET), Sammy Davis Jr. visits The Patty Duke Show as a prospective prom performer. With him is fellow rat-packer Peter Lawford. On Thursday's Get Smart (9 P.M. ET), Don Rickles plays Max's old friend in an episode that also features Ernest Borgnine. On Friday's Alfred Hitchcock Presents (10 P.M. ET), the disoriented people who wander into a police station include Lost in Space's Billy Mumy and Claude Rains. Finally, on My Three Sons (Wed. April 17, 1:30 A.M. ET), one of Dodie's pals is a very young Jodie Foster.
Just a couple of years ago, it was big news when CBS's Vietnam War drama Tour of Duty leaked word that it was about to set a precedent by killing off a minor character. This season the mortality rate for featured players went way up. First, Gary (Peter Horton) was in a fatal car accident on thirty-something. Then Rosalind Shays (Diana Muldaur) plunged to her death on L.A. Law. Don't quote me on this, but has anyone else noticed that the formerly hearty Cliffey is looking a little peaked over on Cheers?