Show of the week
Last year we had In the Gloaming, a jewel of a family drama that Christopher Reeve directed for HBO. Now here he is as star and coexecutive producer of a worthy TV remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 big-screen thriller. True, this film is something of an advertisement for Reeve's courage and determination since a 1995 riding accident left him a quadriplegic dependent on a breathing vent. But his undisguisable disability—shared, of necessity, by the character he plays—actually gives the new Rear Window more gut-level tension than the original.
In the Hitchcock version, James Stewart spied on neighbors across the courtyard while he was laid up in his apartment with a broken leg. Stewart got the idea that one of the residents had committed and concealed a murder, and he became obsessed with exposing the man. Eventually the villain paid a visit, and Stewart found himself in mortal danger. The remake follows an essentially similar plotline under the direction of Jeff Bleckner (Concealed Enemies), but when the climax comes, Reeve's quadriplegia makes him especially agonizingly vulnerable. He's acting and being, and the suspense is certain to have you squirming.
This Rear Window lacks the sly humor and fluid camera work of the Hitchcock classic. Daryl Hannah is no more than adequate as the protagonist's partner in voyeurism, a role less sexy and stylish than Grace Kelly's in 1954. But the only major flaw is a denouement that teases and confuses us just when we want to sit back and take a deep breath.
Bottom Line: Don't look away from this thriller
The WB (Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)
"The power of three will set us free, the power of three will set us free...." That was the incantation chanted by a trio of pretty witches as a horrifying warlock menaced them in last month's premiere of Charmed. The twentysomething sisters didn't scare us; they sounded more like cheerleaders calling for a field goal at a high school football game. But the warlock was blown to bits, and it's results that count.
Shannen Doherty (Beverly Hills, 90210) plays Prudence, the serious one, who can move objects with her mind. (It's a wonder she can move her body in those tight outfits.) Holly Marie Combs (Picket Fences) is Piper, the sweet one, who can stop time. And Alyssa Milano (Melrose Place) is Phoebe, the free spirit who can see into the future. They're supposed to employ their powers for the betterment of humanity, but Phoebe is inclined to use hers in more trivial pursuits like working as a psychic or winning the lottery. Alternating—or rather, wavering—between frightening and funny, the show has yet to establish a clear identity beyond its-status as a post-teenage teammate of The WB's popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The surprisingly touching fourth episode, in which Piper fell in love with a ghost, indicated that Charmed might be well advised to de-emphasize demons and explore the softer side of witchcraft.
Bottom Line: Watchable but not spellbinding
A&E (Sun., Nov. 22, 8 p.m. ET)
John Huston led a mighty full life. He directed The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen and nearly 40 more movies. He wrote or acted in numerous others. He had five wives and five children, and he called three countries home. It's hard to keep it all straight in this two-hour Biography, particularly because John Huston, who died in 1987, is only part of the story. The Hustons: Hollywood's Maverick Dynasty also tries to cover the careers of John's father, actor Walter Huston, and his actress daughter Anjelica. The documentary is packed with clips and colorful anecdotes (from big-name interviewees such as Paul Newman and Michael Caine, as well as Huston's sons Tony and Danny), but the producers should have narrowed its focus and confined Walter and Anjelica to supporting roles.
Bottom Line: A family album that's too much for one sitting
PBS (Sun., Nov. 22, 9 p.m. ET)
Mobil Masterpiece Theatre host Russell Baker, not one for big buildups anyway, doesn't oversell The Prince of Hearts. He introduces it as "a fairy tale with some jabs at the royal family." In other words don't expect a masterpiece—just a likable, lightweight romantic comedy. Robson Green (Touching Evil) plays a working-class cop assigned to serve as bodyguard to a British prince (Rupert Penry-Jones) attending the University of Cambridge. The prince and the policeman both have a thing for an attractive American student (Tara Fitzgerald), but the bodyguard's sense of duty requires him to hide his feelings and school the virginal royal in the art of wooing with words. It's all very Cyrano de Bergerac, as the script goes out of its way to make obvious. If you're looking for that famous British subtlety, this won't be your cup of tea. But Green's manly frustration is on the mark, and Penry-Jones is funny as the clueless child of purple privilege.
Bottom Line: Enjoyable British trifle
>Sunday, Nov. 22 SAINT MAYBE CBS (9 p.m. ET) No, it's definite. This is a TV movie based on Anne Tyler's bestseller about family entanglements.
Monday, Nov. 23 DAVID LETTERMAN ANNIVERSARY CBS (9:30 p.m. ET) Surely you can think of 10 top reasons to watch this fifth-birthday party for Dave's Late Show.
Tuesday, Nov. 24 MOESHA UPN (8 p.m. ET) Moesha (Brandy) decides she's mature enough to kiss her virginity goodbye.
Wednesday, Nov. 25 WORLD'S GREATEST MAGIC V NBC (8 p.m. ET) As the Roman numeral indicates, NBC never tires of airing these sleight-of-hand specials.
Thursday, Nov. 26 A WINNIE THE POOH THANKSGIVING ABC (8 p.m. ET) It's a honey of a Turkey Day for the bear and his pals in this cartoon special.
Friday, Nov. 27 24 HOURS OF EASTWOOD TBS (6:05 a.m. ET) Want action? Forget holiday football. Watch 10 straight Clint flicks.
Saturday, Nov. 28 GATTACA HBO (9 p.m. ET) For cerebral sci-fi, try Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman in a 1997 film.
>Luke Perry Three years ago, Luke Perry's character Dylan McKay fled Beverly Hills, 90210 on a motorbike after his wife was gunned down by the mob. But this month (Nov. 18, 8 p.m. ET on FOX) he rides back into his old zip code for at least 12 episodes after executive producer Aaron Spelling, by his own admission, "begged and groveled" for him to return. Perry, 32, admits he hasn't watched a single episode of 90210 since he left. "I didn't want to know what was going on," he says. "It's better to have Dylan come back without knowing." So where's Dylan McKay been all this time? Says Perry: "He's probably traveled around. You can be sure he's done nothing mundane." Neither has Perry, who has been globetrotting while working in films such as last year's The Fifth Element, shot in the African nation of Mauritania. But with wife Minnie, 29, a homemaker, and their son Jack, born in June 1997, waiting at his L.A. home, the actor welcomes returning to a stable TV gig. "My personal life is more important to me now," he says. Perry's return helps offset the series' loss of Jason Priestley. But Perry will miss his old costar: "It will be difficult for me without Jason. It's like Fonzie without Richie."
- Irene Zutell.
ABC (Sun., Nov. 22, 9 p.m. ET)