CBS (Thurs., May 16, 9 P.M. ET)
A sharp, high-powered L.A. executive (Cosby's Phylicia Rashad) and a gullible country gal (Dyan Cannon, made up to look like Elly May Clampett) are thrown together in a Louisiana jail cell. They escape and go scrambling around the bayou in this off-road comedy.
Dakin Matthews plays the sheriff on their trail; Alan (Going Places) Ruck is his goofy deputy. Rashad's real-life husband, sportscaster Ahmad, has a bit part as her attorney.
If it weren't for the decent chemistry between the stars, the whole thing would play out like an extended Duchesses of Hazzard.
ABC (Fridays, 8:30 P.M. ET)
In this prehistoric animated sitcom, it's 60 million B.C., and dinosaurs are making the ticklish transformation to domestic life.
Earl Sinclair (voice by Not Necessarily the News's Stuart Pankin) is the blue-collar hero. This saurian Ralph Kramden presides over a household dominated by its newest member, the bumptious Baby. Actually it's only in theory that Earl presides over his family. He's another in TV's long line of dimwit dads.
The audio track is turned up annoyingly high, and the humor is only passable, made up primarily of such sight gags as a baby bottle labeled 100% MEAT. Funnier is the way Baby tests Earl's barely developed paternal instincts, bonking Dad while crying, "Not the mama! Not the mama!"
The show's look is enchanting. The animatronics gimmick—the dinosaurs are fashioned by Jim Henson's Creature Shop in London—is a winner. Judging by my 4-year-old's enraptured response, these characters won't be extinct for a long time.
CBS (Sun., May 19, 9 P.M. ET)
Peter Coyote plays a brilliant Missouri attorney who defends a woman (Lesley Ann Warren) accused of murdering her husband. By the time of her acquittal, she has become so obsessed with the lawyer that she conspires to kill his wife (Designing Women's Jean Smart). Matt Clark and Don Hood costar in this Fatal Attraction-like shocker, a rather unimaginative fictionalization of actual events.
ABC (Sun., May 19, 9 P.M. ET)
Julie Andrews is a businesswoman in San Diego whose son (Hugh Grant) informs her that his lover (Zeljko Ivanek) is dying of AIDS. Grant asks her to fly to Arkansas and break the news to Ivanek's trailer-park mom (Ann-Margret), who disowned her homosexual son years before.
Ann-Margret is adequate as a parochial woman in a bad platinum wig. Producer Robert Greenwald's coup was in attracting Andrews to make her TV-movie debut. She brings enormous dignity and clarity to her role.
William Hanley's intelligent, if slightly artificial, script locates the affection beneath the shame and fear Ann-Margret feels when regarding her son. But Hanley's real accomplishment is in sounding the subtle undertones of hostility and denial in the love between Andrews and Grant.
While the movie is too talky and not poignant enough to be great television, it rates high for integrity.
Fox (Mon, May 20, 8 P.M. ET)
In this incredibly shabby horror sequel, the wife (Faye Grant) of a politician (Michael Woods) begins to suspect that their adopted daughter (Asia Vieira) is the spawn of the Antichrist. Jim (Wiseguy) Byrnes, Michael Lerner and Madison Mason costar.
What a shaggy-dog story. All these portentous signs crop up (candles blow out, horses buck, a healing crystal turns black), but nothing ever really happens. The film gets gross at times but never scary. With all the trappings of a honor film but none of the payoffs, the movie often seems like a long, pointless spoof, a Saturday Night Live skit that never got past the "what if" planning stage.
NBC (Mon., May 20, 9 P.M. ET)
Based on Ireland's nonfiction book Life Lines, this bathetic bioflic recounts the trying final years of the actress, the wife of Charles Bronson.
It's 1985 and Ireland, played by Jill Clayburgh, has found out that her breast cancer is in remission. She then discovers that her adopted son (Neill Barry) is a heroin addict. Still feeling the effects of her disease, she begins to battle his.
The intent is inspirational, but the story is presented as bad soap opera. And talk about jarring: The final image of a cloyingly upbeat ending lingers on the screen as a graphic informs us that the young man died of an overdose in 1989 and that a recurrence of cancer claimed Ireland six months later.
Clayburgh trots out a disastrously variable British accent, and Lance (Pumpkinhead) Henriksen portrays "Charlie" by talking as if his vocal cords were flash-frozen. (The film was made over the objections of Bronson. who would not allow his name to be used. See story, page 38.)
The best acting here is by Elizabeth Ashley as Barry's troubled biological mother.
In this, the final full week of the sweeps period, each network is pinning its hopes on a movie about a clash between women of dissimilar backgrounds and outlooks: Phylicia Rashad and Dyan Cannon in Jailbirds on CBS, Julie Andrews and Ann-Margret in Our Sons on ABC, Jill Clayburgh and Elizabeth Ashley in Reason for Living on NBC. Why is the formula so popular? It's a transparent attempt to woo those all-important female viewers (they watch more than guys do). Ladies, start your Nielsen diaries; may the best women win.