03/20/1995 at 01:00 AM EST
The Disney Channel (Sun., March 19, 7 p.m. ET)
In this steadfast but sterile adaptation of the Dickens novel, Sir Peter Ustinov plays the doddering shoppe owner gone to wrack and ruin through the vice of gambling. Yet there are still those who are convinced he is a miser who has squirreled away a huge fortune. In fact, Sir Peter's only asset is his virtuous, kindhearted granddaughter Nell (Sally Walsh).
The miniseries owes what vitality it possesses to Tom Courtenay, who revels in the role of the scruffy cockney villain Quilp, usurer extraordinaire. Despite Dickens' usual crazy quilt of vagabonds and eccentrics, the story moves with dulling deliberation. The costuming and set designs fail to create a completely convincing illusion. They're not cheesy, just chintzy. Yet for all that, this two-parter, which concludes the following night, wields a certain bland comfort, rather like a Yorkshire pudding.