Picks and Pans Review: Lbj: the Early Years

updated 02/02/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/02/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

NBC (Sun., Feb. 1, 8 p.m. ET)

A-

Go ahead and engrave an Emmy with Randy Quaid's name. On his own, Quaid pumps hot, red blood into LBJ and sets his show apart from every other stiff, stodgy and stilted historical TV movie. George Washington, this ain't. Quaid runs, flabby but fast, through the halls of Congress; he slaps the backs of the backslappers; he stuffs booze, cigarettes, bacon, ice cream and milk of magnesia into his mouth in any disgusting order; he meets Bobby Kennedy while zipping down in the bathroom; and he tells Patti LuPone, cast as his bride, Lady Bird: "I'm a po' boy from the country. I scratch when I itch." The show has problems: The script sticks Quaid with decomposing clichés: "Honey, I'm goin' places!" Quaid gets plastered with miserable makeup that turns his chin into Frankenstein's neck. And a few of Lyndon's less flattering sides are soft-pedaled: a love affair, his many political controversies and Vietnam (the story stops on Nov. 22, 1963). But those troubles become trifles next to Quaid's delightfully boisterous performance, fine acting from LuPone (who wasn't chosen just for her nose) and the entire cast, plus some stellar direction by Peter Werner. No matter if you hated LBJ the man (page 34), you'll have every reason to love LBJ the movie.

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