ABC (Wednesdays, 9:30 P.M. ET)
In a curiously moralistic new series from the maker of Beauty and the Beast, an 85-year-old man (Tom Irwin in heavy makeup) sits in a retirement community in the year 2035, reflecting on his life. The bulk of each episode is made up of a well-executed, if predictable, flashback, such as the day his son was born during the 1990 San Francisco earthquake or the aftermath of the economic collapse of ’98. Helen (Next of Kin) Hunt costars as Irwin’s late wife.
As in NBC’s Quantum Leap, the concept allows the series considerable plot latitude. Hut all the stories are infected with the same swollen melodrama. Irwin’s eyewitness history is distilled at the end of each program into a greeting-card lesson for some troubled whippersnapper who is either visiting him or else works at the home. Here’s a typical summation: “Sometimes you have to let go of your plans. Sometimes life has a better plan. Sometimes you have to let life pick you up and carry you away.” Each episode goes through a lot of work to reap a similarly skimpy harvest. If you’re in the mood for sage advice, rent Little Big Man.