Picks and Pans Review: Dress Gray
updated 03/10/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 03/10/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST
Here was a miniseries I couldn't put down. I wanted to carry my TV, my VCR and four hours of tapes into bed, onto the bus, everywhere. Dress Gray did grip me. But that doesn't mean it pleased me. What's good about Gray is its plot. A "too perfect" cadet at an Army academy, Patrick Cassidy, is found drowned. Then an autopsy discovers he was murdered after sex of the gay sort. Scandal. So Hal Holbrook as the commandant covers up, faking the autopsy report for his boss, Lloyd Bridges, and for the kid's powerful pop, Eddie Albert. Holbrook calls it suicide. But cadet Alec (Knots Landing) Baldwin suspects murder and investigates—even though he's implicated in the crime because he'd been the object of Cassidy's secret lust. Baldwin, however, is straight; we know that because he's lusted after Cassidy's sister, the elegantly lovely Susan Hess. Her dad (Albert) orders Hess to "exert your feminine wiles" and spy on Baldwin. Then Holbrook sics spies on them both. The story, taken from the 1979 best-seller by Lucian K. Truscott IV, gets even more tangled. So the plot is rich. But that plot sits here like a truffle in tapioca, surrounded by mush. Take Holbrook's performance. Take it and stick it where it belongs, on a Saturday morning cartoon. He plays the commandant with all the color and life of glass. Albert is almost as bad drawling as the Southern pol; he was better in Green Acres. But Cassidy shines, making his soon-to-be-cadaverous cadet deliciously vile. Baldwin and Hess are pretty and likable, but that's their problem—you're never given the chance to suspect them in this evildoing, to see more than one good side to their characters. And that's Gore Vidal's fault. He wrote the script. Vidal relies on hackneyed flashbacks to tell too much of the tale. He and the director also don't give any sense that this story takes place in the '60s, during Vietnam. In the end, you're bound to be disappointed when you find out who the murderer is. And you're bound to be surprised when, after Gray makes you hate the military, the show turns around with one aw-shucks speech from Bridges and calls soldiering honorable after all. In the end, I wanted to take the TV, VCR and tapes I'd been carrying around and throw them down in anger.