01/30/1989 at 01:00 AM EST
CBS (Sun., Jan. 29, 9 p.m. ET)
Distilled to its essence, Home Fires argues that a crusty, cranky, truth-telling newspaperman should just shut up and be nice. As a crusty, cranky newsman myself, it's not a cause I can get behind. Barnard Hughes plays this small-town editor—"He's a cantankerous old goat," says Sada (Family) Thompson as his wife, "but I love him in spite of it; that's what marriage is sometimes: loving in spite of." That's the sort of homespun hooey Thompson has to spew throughout the show—to Hughes and to their grandson, who lives with them because the kid's daddy is off in World War II and the kid's mommy is gone, thanks to something bad that daddy did. That mysterious something is what Hughes is cranky about and what everyone else wants him to shut up about. Confused? So's the poor kid. When he asks his grandmother what's going on in the family, all she'll say is: "Well, it's a long story, honey." Yes, too long. The real problem with Home Fires is that the characters seem to have met only a week ago, not a lifetime ago. They just don't ring true. The stars try hard to turn the story into a real movie—or at least an animated Norman Rockwell painting—but what they really have here is just a leftover Dondi cartoon strip.