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Picks and Pans Review: Backstairs at the White House

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NBC (8 p.m. ET)

NBC gets a jump on the key February ratings “sweep” with this nine-hour adaptation (three episodes follow on consecutive Mondays) of the 1961 best-seller by a domestic and her daughter, who between them served every White House family from the Tafts to the Eisenhowers. Olivia Cole, who brought warmth and dignity to Chicken George’s wife, Matilda, in floors, is superb as maid Maggie Rogers; but Leslie Uggams, as her crippled daughter, is uneven. Lou Gossett, Robert Hooks and Cloris Leachman do well with supporting roles, and the name stars masquerading as First Families are amusing. (Harry Morgan and Estelle Parsons are the Trumans, for instance.) But the weight of the story lies between the lines—White House elegance contrasted to the poverty endured by Maggie on her salary of $20 per month.