Picks and Pans Review: When We Were Young

updated 07/17/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/17/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

NBC (Mon., July 17, 9 P.M. ET)

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Richard and Esther Shapiro, who brought us Dynasty, now give us this two-hour pilot about eight high school seniors graduating in 1959. High school seniors? Right now, sitting around pondering the future, they more resemble yupscale members of a condo board. If these are teenagers, then Zsa Zsa Gabor just turned 40. One assumes that if the pilot ever becomes a series, their ages will eventually catch up with the actors' looks.

The action begins in a fictional California town a few days before high school graduation. In an apparent attempt to create a nostalgic atmosphere, everything has been given a murky golden hue, as if it were shot through brake fluid. To evoke a further bit of atmosphere, songs from the 1950s are continually played on the sound track—and hasn't that become the cliché of clichés? The only things more sterile-looking than the mood, the sets and the polished vintage cars are the actors with their capped teeth and customized bodies.

Although Ronny (St. Elsewhere) Cox gets top billing, his part in the pilot is surprisingly small. He plays Matthew Farrell, a widowed industrialist who is superprotective of his beautiful, popular daughter, Paige, played by Lindsay (As the World Turns) Frost. Like all wealthy debutantes, she attends public high school—sure, sure. When it looks as if Paige is about to become engaged to a poor but honest auto-shop student named Michael, Papa steps in. He not only sabotages the romance but fires Michael's dad, a blue-collar liberal who works for him. Michael, played by Grant (Ryan's Hope) Show, vows revenge and fakes an affair with Mr. Farrell's nerdette secretary, Ellen (Cynthia Gibb), in order to obtain dark company secrets that can destroy the old man. The teens in this town have a lot more on their minds than zits and homecoming games.

As hokeypokey as all this sounds—and is—one does develop a perverse curiosity about what's going to happen to the characters as the rivalries escalate and the various subplots unfold. It could probably work as a series. Then we'd have eight new celebrity perfumes to look forward to.

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