Forget the shock of the new. Call Fall ’89 the mellow era of vintage classics, megahit redux. Back to the Future is sequeled; Stella Dallas and Sweet Bird of Youth are remade. It’s hello again to Marlon Brando, the yet-hunky Paul Newman and Gregory Peck, to Judith Krantz and Lindsay Wagner. Ah, nostalgia! Julia Child goes once more unto the fridge; Captain Kangaroo, Nancy Reagan and Wayne Newton reflect on their lives. Here’s what’s new: Babies! Babbling babies, tot-size frozen dinners, six Danielle Steel books for kids. Grown-ups will be stuck with trash fish and car faxes. The passage of time is always a blend of the old, the new and the merely novel. And so we go, ever-so-retro, into the new season.
The Little Mermaid Disney’s first animated fairy tale since Sleeping Beauty features a finnish charmer who falls head over scales for a human prince. Her father, the King of the Sea, is not amused, and there’s a witch who’d just as soon see our heroine sautéed in butter, with a little lemon on the side. But fret not: “The moral,” says co-writer John Musker, “is that true love can defy all obstacles.” (Nov.)
Erik the Viking The world needs a new hero, not another retread, figures writer-actor-director Terry Jones, an ex-Monty Pythonite. So he has revived a character from his children’s books, sort of a kinder, gentler marauder. “He’s a Viking who thinks there must be more to life than rape and pillage,” says Jones. “He’s got charisma and vulnerability.” Tim Robbins plays the new improved Erik, and John Cleese (far left, with Antony Sher) is the villainous Halfdan the Black. (Sept.)
Old Gringo A love triangle featuring Jane Fonda, Gregory Peck and Jimmy Smits? “It’s unique, deep and quite interesting,” says Fonda, whose company produced Gringo. Based on a Carlos Fuentes novel, the film places governess Fonda, journalist Peck and soldier Smits in the same hacienda during the Mexican Revolution. Tough filming conditions and a serious plot, says Fonda, made production “more difficult than a bedroom comedy. But it was also a real labor of love.” (Oct.)
Blaze As Louisiana Gov. Earl Long, Paul Newman emerges from smoke-filled back rooms just long enough to carry on a scandalous affair with stripper Blaze Starr (Lolita Davidovich). The tale is set in 1959, when senators could pub crawl without being spied on by the press and strippers liked to be called exotic dancers. “It’s an examination of Louisiana politics,” says co-producer Dale Pollock. “It’s also a nostalgic, fond look back at a very unusual love affair.” (Dec.)
Two Jakes Chinatown was about water and land; The Two Jakes, the long-awaited sequel, is about oil and land, and once again stars Jack Nicholson as detective Jake Gittes, a laid-back cynic trying to make a living in a Day of the Locust world. Nicholson, who also directed the film, apparently told himself to be funny. “This one has more humor than Chinatown” says co-producer Harold Schneider, “and I’m not just talking about the raised eyebrows and the big grin.” (Dec.)
Harlem Nights You read about the lawsuit—in which starlet Michael Michele alleged that Eddie Murphy fired her from her role after she resisted his attentions—now see the movie. Richard Pryor, as a 1930’s Harlem nightclub owner, and Murphy, as his protégé, try to foil a gangster who’d like to engineer a corporate takeover the old-fashioned way. Redd Foxx and Della Reese, in supporting roles, add to the comedy’s alarmingly high high-jinks potential. (Nov.)
Back to the Future II Picking up where he left off in his 1985 hit, Michael J. Fox rockets ahead to 2015 to check on his children. The 21st century proves to be no picnic: The kids are losers, and our hero hasn’t amounted to a hill of beans. On the bright side, people can chat with their TVs. “We came up with some pretty crazy ideas about the future,” says executive producer Frank Marshall. So many, in fact, that the cast is simultaneously shooting Back to the Future III, for release next summer. (Nov.)
Steel Magnolias The hilarious, touching off-Broadway play becomes a movie starring Dolly Parton as a small-town Louisiana hairdresser and Daryl Hannah as her secretive shampoo girl. Beneath the snippy chatter they share with customers Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis and Julia Roberts is a deepening bond that builds to a tragic climax. Playwright Robert Harling’s script is a post-feminist marvel, a tribute to the complexity of women’s lives and the value of their friendships. (Nov.)
We’re No Angels No kidding: Sean Penn and Robert De Niro play a couple of escaped convicts who are mistaken for priests and try to live up to their serendipitous calling. Loosely based on the 1955 Humphrey Bogart movie of the same name, Angels, promises producer Art Linson, is “filled with adventure, but it’s also very funny and very touching. It’s their Christmas card to America.” (Dec.)
She Devil The season’s most delicious casting coup pits Meryl Streep, as an oh-so-proper romance novelist, against Roseanne Barr, who refuses to stand by idly as her man, Ed Begley Jr., runs off with Meryl. Although Barr proceeds to make the new couple’s life a living heck, “It’s not an out-and-out yuk-yuk comedy,” says director Susan (Desperately Seeking Susan) Seidelman. “It’s really about glamorous people vs. ordinary people, underdogs vs. people who seem to have everything.” Adds Seidelman: “Roseanne is not the character that she plays on TV. She’ll blow people’s minds.” (Dec.)
Liz gets Mark, Julie and Carol reunite, and Doc Kildare goes Hawaiian. You’ll also catch spies, socialites, teen models, a cornball sea lion and some fave faces in specials, as Eight still proves Enough and the Love Boat sets sail once again
Julie and Carol: Together Again Julie is Julie Andrews, Carol is Carol Burnett, and that’s the cast of their third TV special since 1962. “It’s basically two women getting into a sandbox and playing,” says Burnett. Actually, it’s skits and songs, notably a rap number about motherhood. “It was Julie’s idea,” Burnett says. “We wear baggy pants and gold chains, and we just rap our little heads off. If we ever have an act, we’ll call ourselves White Bread and Mayonnaise.” (ABC)
Sweet Bird of Youth Call it inspired casting, if not typecasting: Elizabeth Taylor as Princess Alexandra del Lago, a fading movie queen who finds comfort in drugs, alcohol and young men. In the new tube version of Tennessee Williams’s play, La Liz gets to swoon, rage and breathe heavily at hunky Mark Harmon, the gigolo-drifter Chance Wayne, who feeds her hashish and hastens her graceless aging. The fun ends when Rip Torn, as a vengeful political boss, sends his henchmen after Chance. Don’t expect a reprise of the sanitized 1962 movie starring Paul Newman and Geraldine Page; director Nicolas Roeg has restored the original play’s raunch. (NBC)
Island Son A few things in life are certain, among them death, taxes and a procession of TV shows set in Hawaii. The latest case of island fever broke out when CBS asked Richard Chamberlain to do his first series since Dr. Kildare. Chamberlain lives in Hawaii and wouldn’t budge; CBS has had good luck in the 50th state (Hawaii Five-O, Magnum P.I., Jake and the Fatman). Chamberlain wanted to don hospital whites again, CBS didn’t have a doctor in the house, so what the hey. Now Chamberlain is Dr. Daniel Kulani, Island Son. (CBS)
Peaceable Kingdom It’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it, so Lindsay (Bionic Woman) Wagner and Tom (The Dukes of Hazzard) Wopat plunge right in. As sister and brother they lead a two-legged, four-legged and no-legged cast—including a precocious, hammy sea lion—in a family drama set in a large metropolitan zoo. There’s no telling yet whether the series has the sweet smell of success, but it surely has animal magnetism of a sort. Suffice it to say that Wagner has found the sea lion a gas to work with and calls him Sushi Breath. Behind his back, of course. (CBS)
Chicken Soup An Oy Vay League man using his noodle, Jackie Mason is borschting at the seams in this sitcom about a salesman who starts a new life as a counselor at a center for troubled inner-city youngsters. Lynn Redgrave, who is much taller than he, plays Maddie, the attractive widow-next-door-with-three-kids, who also just happens to work at the youth center. Rita Karin plays Jackie’s mother, who can’t help interfering in his life. Critics have been predicting that Chicken Soup will be the flavor-of-the-week, but Mason says he’s feeling no pressure. “Pressure is someone threatening to throw you off a balcony,” he says. “This is fun.” How tough could it be? So far Redgrave hasn’t forced him to eat any diet TV dinners. (ABC)
Challenger It took some doing to persuade NASA that the world was ready for a TV movie about the 1986 space shuttle explosion, but ABC finally succeeded. Barry Bostwick stars as Comdr. Dick Scobee and Karen Allen as schoolteacher Krista McAuliffe in a three-hour docudrama filmed at NASA’s Houston headquarters with a cast that eerily resembles the actual crew. “It was very emotional,” says Bostwick, “especially after I met Scobee’s daughter on the set.” (ABC)
Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind There won’t be any mariachi bands or timeless standards from Linda Ronstadt on her new LP. Expect something a little more in the pop-rock mainstream than her most recent efforts, although, says a member of Ronstadt’s camp, “no one’s calling it a pop record,” exactly. Aaron Neville chimes in as a guest vocalist. (Sept.)
Crossroads The bleak stories of dead-end lives on folkie Tracy Chapman’s debut album proved a potent musical tonic to the gaudy excesses of the ’80s. The tone of the 26-year-old wunderkind’s follow-up is almost as cheerless, but Chapman still sounds strong and inspired. (Sept.)
Neither Fish Nor Flesh “It’s not Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby II,” says a source about TTD’s long-overdue follow-up to his smash debut. “The new album is about spirituality, religion and sex”—themes that have also been explored by Madonna, Prince, George Michael and, to his regret, the Rev. Jim Bakker. Unlike Bakker, however, D’Arby reportedly took some of his inspiration from Creedence Clearwater Revival. (Oct.)
Poodle Springs Fans of Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled private eyes—immortalized onscreen by Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep—will want to investigate this mystery, set in a California desert resort. Chandler, who died in 1959, left behind four chapters of an unfinished work; in 1988 his estate hired noted novelist Robert B. Parker, author of the Spenser detective series, to complete the puzzle. Why him? “I think it was my picture on my other books,” says the mustachioed writer. “I was so adorable.” (G. P. Putnam’s Sons/Oct.)
Growing Up Happy A lesser man might have written a tell-all about Mr. Green Jeans, but Captain Kangaroo has a nobler agenda. Bob Keeshan, TV marsupial to a generation, hopes his autobiographical work will teach his former fans how to nurture their kids. (Doubleday/Sept.)
Yul: The Man Who Would Be King Fall brings Rock Brynner’s book about his famous dad, but don’t get the idea that Yultide will be an occasion for recounting warm family memories. The author-offspring describes his subject as a man who “became a slave to his own ego, lied to everybody and wrote his children out of his will. He had a talent for amputation. He cut off his father, his mother, his sister, three wives and five children.” Nonetheless, says Rock, rather incongruously, “it’s a book full of love, and I think I make sense of his life.” It is not, he insists, a bald-faced Yul Dearest: “This book has as much in common with Mommie Dearest as Yul Brynner looked like Joan Crawford.” (Simon and Schuster/Oct.)
Trash Fish As the saying goes, dinner is in the eye of the beholder. And this season, a host of uncomely comestibles (like the monkfish above, with Julia Child) will be coming to a restaurant near you. Considering the price of traditional seafood, these affordable “trash fish” look downright attractive.
Sting Onstage The activist-rocker takes to the boards as Macheath in a Broadway reprise of The Threepenny Opera, Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s politically charged 1928 musical. Get ready come November for an evening of Stinging social commentary.
Tot-size TV Dinners It’s a strain eating strained food from a jar, but what’s a baby to do? Ask Mom to get Starting Right, all-natural frozen meals. Cameon Ivarsson, inventor of the mini microwave dinners, predicts a revolution: “Moms won’t be able to do without them.”
Hot Wheels Smooth as skis, speedier than traditional roller skates, Rollerblades have caught on with cross-training buffs who say that the road-going ice skates are cool fat-burners. Ready to shed those training wheels?
Life in the Fax Lane Who needs an office anymore? Anybody with wheels can now get and send hard copy, thanks to a new line of portable facsimile machines that plug into your car’s cellular telephone line. They go for $900 to $2,300.
Fettuccine à la Frank? Yes, another chance to put a celeb in your pantry. After years of receiving compliments about his cooking, Frank Sinatra, a.k.a. Ol’ Blue Plate, will offer a line of pasta sauces.