Picks and Pans Review: Roots: the Gift
updated 12/12/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/12/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST
Alex Haley must have been jealous. Herman Wouk has 36 hours of Winds of War and Remembrance behind him plus 12 more coming up this spring. But Haley has only 26 hours racked up in his two Roots miniseries. So ABC had to give him something. Why not a two-hour Roots Christmas special? If Kermit the Frog can have one, why can't Kunta Kinte? So what if this only overextends and overexposes the honorable and proud tradition of Roots? Isn't that what TV is for? It is the late 1700s, and Louis Gossett Jr. and LeVar Burton, returning to their roles as Fiddler and Kunta Kinte, risk their lives to help other slaves escape. They could do this on any day of the year, but they happen to do it on Christmas Eve. So the show's only connection to Christmas is through this contrived coincidence of timing. And the show's only message about slavery is just about as contrived. The stars do little more than make these simplistic pronouncements on freedom: "I gots to be free again.... You reckon that this freedom is somethin' I can learn?" First A Man for All Seasons, then Mary Tyler Moore, now Roots. Will TV never learn to leave well enough alone?