Picks and Pans Review: Paradise Postponed

updated 10/20/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/20/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

PBS (Sun., Oct. 19, 9 p.m. ET)


Don't get me wrong. I love the English, especially their language. But sometimes on TV these Brits can cause a Yank's eyelids to droop. Mine drooped through most of the 11½ pastoral, plotless hours in this epic by John Mortimer, the lawyer who wrote Rum-pole of the Bailey, A Voyage Round My Father and the TV version of Brideshead Revisited. He wrote the novel Paradise Postponed at the same time he wrote the miniseries Paradise Postponed. So that's one thing you can say for it: The show holds true to the book. Paradise is built around a very small puzzle: Sir Michael Hordern plays a left-wing minister of the church who dies, inexplicably leaving his family fortune to a right-wing minister of government, a malevolent wimp played well by David (Nicholas Nickleby) Threlfall. But neither that mystery nor its solution is very compelling. In place of plot or action the script flashes back and forward, from 1986 to 1952 and in between, like a hyperactive strobe light. It doesn't really try to tell a story so much as it tries to give you a portrait of a postwar England where the kindly pastor's dreams of a just New Jerusalem crumble into a conservative Sodom of greed. Yet that portrait too is sketchily drawn. There are a good many nice moments and nice lines in Paradise, but they stand out better in the book. What the miniseries has that the book lacks, however, is a few engaging performances by Colin Blakely, as a doctor who thinks medical people have "an unhealthy interest in disease," Eleanor David, as his steel-willed daughter, and especially Zoë Wanamaker, as the conservative minister's benignly bonkers wife.

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