02/15/1988 at 01:00 AM EST
PBS (Wed., Feb. 10, 9 p.m. ET)
Finally here's a show that begins to restore my faith in what used to be my favorite PBS series, American Playhouse. It's 1957, and Kevin Bacon plays a 17-year-old student who moves to California to live with the father who deserted him years before (Tom Atkins), a sweet stepmother (Lindsay Crouse) and their family of two boys and two troubled foster-care girls. Everybody's uncomfortable, and soon you see that they have plenty of reason to be: This ail-American family is all messed up. Unfortunately playwright Lanford (Burn This) Wilson ends this early autobiographical play with the cliché of all father-and-son dramas—the loud, venomous, heavy-on-the-hormones Death of a Salesman screamfest. But still Wilson creates an inviting and exciting world. It is fresh and different (and American), and that's what PBS and Playhouse should be.