1987's Stars of the Fall
Everything old is new again, and this season it’s not just miniskirts and Honeymooners reruns. The entertainment powers that be, especially the TV programmers, have pitched all their pennies into projects that fast-forward nostalgia and plop it squarely into the present. Dolly Parton, having gone through every other medium, is trying her svelte new self (a pair of trademarks remain intact) out on an old-time variety show. From Three’s Company, John Ritter is sallying forth to head a detective series. Old-timers William (Cannon) Conrad and Dale (Tales of Wells Fargo) Robertson are making comebacks with gumshoe shows of their own. Such video veterans as Dennis Weaver, Dabney Coleman and Paul Sorvino also return in series circulation. But nothing crystallizes the newfangled penchant for pursuing the past like the launching of a spanking new Starship enterprise, Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Paramount studios, which turned a hefty profit on the original Star Trek and four spin-off movies, is bankrolling the excursion. “They are pumping tremendous amounts of money into this project,” says Robert Justman, a supervising producer. Yes, indeedy. With a $30 million budget, The Next Generation will be the biggest-spending series on TV this fall. As the most ambitious syndicated (i.e., non-network) show in the history of the tube, it’s also potentially among the most lucrative, since Paramount can sell it directly to local stations. The early October kickoff episode, a two-hour telemovie that reacquaints us with the life-styles of the outer limits and introduces a whole new cast of space missionaries, cleared the coffers of $2.5 million (Earthdollars). The next 24 shows, with special effects by George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic outfit, will run about $1 million each. Yet the question remains: Will The Next Generation fly?
“There’s never been a sequel that people aren’t a little nervous about,” admits Rick Berman, a supervising producer. One gets especially nervous when the original is a cult phenomenon on the order of Star Trek. Will the millions of members of the more than 450 Trekkie fan clubs worldwide accept the fact that the old Enterprise’s control room is so antiquated it could appear as a tintype in one of Luke Skywalker’s history books? Face it, couch cosmonauts, the times they are a changin’.
Welcome to the 24th century. Earth is essentially a paradise. “Most of the problems that now exist—political strife, illiteracy, poverty and war—have been wiped out,” explains Berman. The Federation of Planets has made peace with its archenemies the Klingons, and the Ferengi, a tribe of heinous, hairless humanoids, have taken their place as the Starfleet’s nemesis. The Enterprise, model NCC-1701-D, is in its fifth incarnation and is eight times the size of Kirk’s vessel. (The newcomer takes up three huge sound stages on Paramount’s back lot.) The spartan quarters of the previous ships are now as big and lush as a modest Beverly Hills condo. The militaristic color schemes of Kirk’s day are replaced by decorator hues of turquoise, silver and plum.
Where The Next Generation really goes into warp drive, however, is with its principal players. As the title implies, this is an all-new crew, and with the exception of LeVar (Roots) Burton, who plays blind Lieutenant La Forge, and Wil (Stand By Me) Wheaton, who plays young Wes Crusher, the actors are less well-known. Royal Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart plays Starfleet Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and Jonathan Frakes is his trusty sidekick, Commander William “Number One” Riker. Denise Crosby, Bing’s granddaughter, is security chief Tasha Yar. Gates McFadden takes over Sick Bay as chief medical officer Dr. Beverly Crusher. Brent Spiner plays Lieutenant Commander Data, an android whose muscular prowess is matched by his memory. Michael Dorn is Lieutenant Worf, one of the now-chummy Klingons. Marina Sirtis is Deanna Troi, a half-human, half-Betazoid Starfleet counselor.
But hang on to your plastic ear tips, Trekkies. Not everything you hold dear has been vaporized. Gene Roddenberry, creator of the original series, is back on the bridge as the show’s writer and executive producer. The first time out, Roddenberry didn’t fare too well. The initial Star Trek only ran for three seasons (1966-69) and was regarded as a ratings flop. “I was doing this strange thing that network people didn’t particularly like,” he says. “They weren’t sure if I was writing for kids or adults, and wasn’t it faintly communistic?” After the success of the reruns, Roddenberry couldn’t get a check from the studio. “They were making millions, but I didn’t have a very good contract,” he says. “They kept telling me they were millions in the hole.”
This time around, the ungrudging Roddenberry says he has free rein—which means another batch of human morality tales will be flung into the farfetched future. “In the first Star Trek we dealt with the challenges of the ’60s,” he recalls. “They were racial harmony, female equality and political issues. This time we’ll have to move further ahead.” Drug addiction, communicable disease and sex will rear their topical heads on The Next Generation. Even Spock might have been perturbed by such subjects, but such is the nature of progress. “Unless we shock and irritate people, we’re not doing our jobs,” says Roddenberry. “We’ve got to be on the cutting edge.”
Will we miss Shelley Long snobbing it up as Diane Chambers on Cheers? Will we miss her churning, on-and-off Cuisinart romance with Ted Danson as Sam? Not a chance. By the time Long left last season, the two of them were showing about as much sexual tension as June and Ward Cleaver. So the fans and the barfly stars of Cheers are buzzing with joy as they welcome a new woman to the show: Kirstie (North and South) Alley as sexist Sam’s new boss, Rebecca Howe, the manager who is sent to run his bar after Sam sells it to a giant corporation. “Hey, we’re hot,” Danson bragged as he fondled Alley’s knee when they were presented to the press. Yeah, yeah. But what America wants to know is, will they rev up that old sexual tension? Will they make it? “Sam will be attracted to Rebecca,” reveals Cheers executive producer James Burrows, “but she won’t find Sam attractive—which he finds very strange.”
She’s lost a pound for every million bucks she’s pulling in. The weight loss was sure worth it: Dolly Parton now boasts a new, 40-pounds-lighter body that’ll make you drop dead smiling. But the big question is, will ABC win its $40-plus-million gamble on her? The No. 3 network is betting that America is ready to step back in time, that America misses the kind of spectaculars Ed Sullivan and Cher and Perry Como used to make, that America is dying to watch a—gulp—variety show again. Dolly, who’s signed up for two years, is optimistic—especially after the critical success of Tracey Ullman’s quasi-variety show on Fox. “I don’t think we have to worry about the competition,” Dolly says, “because I’m my own worst critic and I only compete with myself.” She is willing to do anything to make her Sunday series work—even take off her wig. She’s hoping to get pals Jane Fonda, Linda Ronstadt and Lily Tomlin as guests on early episodes. She’s planning to get out of the Los Angeles studio once in a while to visit old folks dancing in a ballroom or hunks stripping in Chippendales. She has a high-class producer, Don Mischer, who got raves and ratings for this year’s Tony awards show. Dolly vows to do anything but those big, dumb production numbers. “I don’t want to get up and do big choreographed numbers,” she says, “and spend hours trying to do that when that’s not something I want to do.” Whew!
The jewelry was a pain. When Farrah Fawcett became the scandalous Barbara Hutton for NBC’s November miniseries Poor Little Rich Girl (co-starring Nicholas Clay), she was warned. “They were constantly saying, ‘You know, this emerald necklace is 22 carats and cost over $2 million and emeralds are so soft they will break, so for God’s sake don’t fall.’ ” So, of course, she did. Playing drunk, she stumbled and “boom, the emerald hit me in the head and blood started. So I was actually wounded by the jewelry that I wore. But the emerald was okay. That was the important thing.”
Aw shucks, they won’t be showing us the tantrum we all read about—the piano kicked over, the microphone thrown down, the star enraged because his film crew blinded the audience with their lights. Just music, that’s all HBO is including in an October special filmed during Billy Joel’s sell-out concerts at Leningrad’s V.I. Lenin Sports and Concert Complex.
NBC had to give Michael J. Fox something to make up for moving Family Ties to Sunday from its cozy home on Thursday (also known as Cosby-day). So they’re giving him a girlfriend to replace his onscreen-turned-offscreen date, Tracy Pollan. NBC is wisely setting him up with a psychology major played by Courtney Cox, who dimpled her way into our hearts Dancing in the Dark on a video with Bruce Springsteen, then survived the flop Misfits of Science. So watch out, Stephanie and Michael on Newhart. You’re losing the title you cherish. Because right here, right now, we’re crowning rhyming romancers Fox and Cox the Cutest Couple on TV.
NBC has Cos for concern. They’re breaking up TV’s First Family, sending Lisa Bonet to Spin-Off U in A Different World, following Cosby on Thursdays. The pilot was limp. So NBC hired Anne (Square Pegs) Beatts to make a new premiere. Beatts knows the key to success. “The time slot, the time slot, the time slot!” she says. But she’ll also need that ol’ school spirit.
After getting raves for his serious performance in Unnatural Causes, John Ritter is taking his class act to ABC on Wednesdays as a cop and landlord in Hooperman, a sitcom created by TV’s highbrow darlings Steven Bochco and Terry Louise Fisher of L.A. Law. They’re trying to make it sound like the sitcom Eugene O’Neill would have written if he’d written any. “There are no jokes in the show, per se,” brags executive producer Robert My-man. No jokes. No jiggle. Three’s Company’s King of Leers plays King Lear.
M*A*S*H it ain’t. Nobody’s laughing about Vietnam yet. But after Platoon’s box-office victory, CBS thinks the war is ready for prime time. Tour of Duty follows regular grunts, no stars except Terence Knox, all of them expendable. “When somebody buys the farm, as they put it in Vietnam, our viewers are going to feel it,” warns executive producer Zev Braun. If, that is, they’re not watching the enemy, Cosby.
Farrah Fawcett did it first. She looked like hell in The Burning Bed, then people knew she could act. Now Raquel Welch goes the frowsy route in NBC’s Right to Die in October. The 46-year-old actress plays a woman who wants to end her life after she’s paralyzed by Lou Gehrig’s disease. Does Raquel deliver the thespian goods? “She gave me her soul,” says director Paul Wendkos. “She reached down through the broken glass of her psyche and dredged up emotion that was very touching.” We presume that means that in addition to a few bloody fingers, we’ll get to see the lady act.
All the bastards on Dynasty notwithstanding, this looks like a TV first: a show about an illegitimate child. But don’t call Jerry Falwell. NBC’s My Two Dads is more darling than daring. Paul (Aliens) Reiser and Greg (B.J. and the Bear) Evigan both adopt 12-year-old Staci Keanan because her dead mom wasn’t sure which fella was the father….Not all the action is on the big networks. Local stations are breaking the rerun habit with syndicated series: The New Monkees, Friday the 13th: The Television Series, She’s the Sheriff with Suzanne Somers and a dozen more….HBO presents Alfre Woodard in Mandela on Sept. 20….That same night, upstart Fox presents TV’s endless ego-fest, the Emmy Awards….Fox also has two new Saturday sitcoms: Second Chance with Kiel (Hill Street Blues) Martin and Women in Prison….Elayne Boosler plays Broadway on Showtime in October…. And just when you thought it was safe to go back into the cellar, Geraldo Rivera gets a syndicated talk show.
“It’s a 10-handkerchief movie,” says Keith Barish, and even though he is the movie’s producer, he’s right. Iron-weed, pairing Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep as lovers who are down and out in Pulitzer prizewinning author William Kennedy’s tale of Depression-era Albany, could be the great weeper of the Christmas season—this year’s Terms of Endearment. Amazingly, Barish isn’t crying about the film’s $27 mil-ion budget, of which Nicholson got about five mill and Streep two-point-five. As for the rest, heck, it’s expensive recreate poverty.
Directed by Rob Reiner, September’s The Princess Bride is no fairy tale for meatheads. What it is, easily, is the most magical film fable this Fall has to offer. An accomplished moviemaker, Reiner has wanted to make this movie since he read the William Goldman novel 13 years ago. He’s depicted the tribulations of a princess and her knight in shining armour—Robin Wright and Cary Elwes (left)—with romanticism, adventure and a liberal shot of his Spinal Tap humor. Gathering a cast that includes Mandy Patinkin, Peter Falk, Christopher Guest and Billy Crystal, Reiner has made a real dream of a movie.
Due to give birth in December, Sally Field—who hasn’t been seen onscreen since Murphy’s Romance nearly two years ago—is getting her career back in gear with a twin effort. In October she teams with Michael Caine for Surrender, a romantic comedy partly produced by her husband, Alan Greisman. She plays a talented but unrecognized artist with a history of flopped relationships; Caine is a novelist whose romantic past could fill a book. At Christmastime, Field and Tom Hanks star in Punchline (right) as a pair of struggling stand-up comics. The word on Surrenders a bit iffy, but Punchline—for which she and Hanks prepared by performing in New York laugh clubs—looks very strong. Prediction: Fields’s comeback labors will not be in vain.
Some said it couldn’t be done, but Cher’s transformation from faddish rocker to serious actress, already well along, is about to reach its apogee. In Suspect, a November whodunit, she plays a public defender who erotically tampers with juror Dennis Quaid during a murder case she’s handling. Advance word is that her performance will put her over the top. “There are things Cher can do well because she’s done a lot of living and she can draw from life,” says director Peter Yates. “She’s not like actresses who learn it in acting school or who come straight out of modeling academies.” A sign of her achievement: “She doesn’t show her navel in this film at all,” says Yates.
Chances are that Albert Finney has a nomination for the Best Actor Oscar all tied up. In Orphans, a taut, darkly humorous September release, he plays a drunken gangster who’s kidnapped by a petty thief (Full Metal Jacket’s Matthew Modine) and the punk’s half-witted brother (Kevin Anderson). Brought into their psychologically stifling environment—Modine has convinced his brother that he will die of allergies if he ventures outside the decaying house—Finney unexpectedly becomes a father figure for the boys. In the process he delivers a riveting performance. “I’ve never worked with an actor more charismatic, more gifted or more skilled,” gushes director Alan J. Pakula. “He has the strength, warmth and humor that is the stuff of heroes.”
A lonely, lovelorn teenage girl has to stay home and clean while the rest of her family gets to go out and boogie. This is a plot premise? Of course it is. Walt Disney’s Cinderella will be re-released at Thanksgiving in all its Technicolor glory. Originally, a team of 750 artists and storymen spent nearly six years making the 1950 film, which rescued the Disney Studio from one of its worst financial crises. Today, Disney is in fine shape, and this prince of a tale remains as charming as ever.
A few years have passed since Diane Keaton enjoyed a full-fledged hit. But her best shot might be October’s Baby Boom, a Yup-com co-starring Sam Shepard and Harold Ramis. Keaton plays an MBA whose hectic 5-to-9 life is upended when she suddenly inherits a 13-month-old girl. Will such scenes as Keaton attempting to check the baby in the Four Seasons’ coat-room sit well with the Wendy’s crowd? Industry sonograms taken on this film are evenly divided—Baby Boom could go blue-chip or belly-up.
With Platoon, director Oliver Stone won acclaim for bringing the first realistic account of Vietnam to the screen. His new film deals with a different kind of warfare. Wall Street, due in December, tosses Michael Douglas (left), Daryl Hannah and Charlie Sheen into the insider-trading, corporate-raiding battles. Stone claims he isn’t worried about living up to critical expectations. “I’m just trying to tell a good story,” he says. An insider’s tip: He’s doing the job.
Steven Spielberg’s next movie, Empire of the Sun, is being described as “a serious personal statement about war.” But wait a minute, don’t leave yet. Street talk is that the John Malkovich-starrer is actually quite good. A look at WWII through the eyes of a young boy, Empire is probably one of the most powerful dramas we’ll be seeing in December….Shelley Long makes her first post-Cheers effort with October’s Hello, Again, a supernatural comedy (she plays a ghost) co-starring L.A. Law’s Corbin Bernsen. Did Shelley live up to her reputation for being a royal pain? Not at all, says diplomatic director Frank Perry. “She’s simply obsessed with making things right.”… Wittiest Movie with the Dullest Title: Broadcast News, a December comedy starring William Hurt as a TV journalist…. Dullest Movie with the Wittiest Title: Tough Guys Don’t Dance, a September drama in which Norman Mailer (mis) directs Ryan O’Neal and Isabella Rossellini from his own pulpy, bloody novel.
Mamie Van Doren, 56, tells everything you ever wanted to know about her sex life but were afraid even to imagine. In Playing the Field: My Story (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $18.95), the most name-studded book of the Fall, the ex-actress claims to have romped with Steve McQueen, Burt Reynolds, Eddie Fisher and even Rock Hudson among many others. Even more amazing than that last conquest, she says she didn’t sleep with Warren Beatty.
Michael Jackson is back, still bewitched and bewildering. Bad, his first album since the 38.5-million-seller Thriller five years ago, is being released Aug. 31 with all the hype-la you’d expect. There’s an 18-minute Bad video, a CD with an extra cut (Leave Me Alone), an Asian tour starting Sept. 12 and rumors of a U.S. tour. But the album’s first single, I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, is proving to be a relatively slow riser. Mikey may still be be-gloved, but is he still beloved?
What, you may ask, is a group like the New Monkees doing in a Fall Preview like this? Well, actually, these four full-a-fun guys (from left, Jared Chandler, Dino Kovas, Marty Ross and Larry Saltis) have a good shot at the charts—mostly because, like their prefabricated predecessors, they have a TV show (albeit only a syndicated one) behind them. As for their self-titled LP due in October, “the sound isn’t finely honed yet,” admits executive producer Steve Blauner. “You don’t take guys who’ve been together 12 minutes and make them sound like they’ve been together for years.”
The Cars, America’s best techno-pop mechanics, have another model coming off the assembly line. Three years after their three-million-selling Heartbeat City album, they’re set to release a new one: Door to Door. According to the band’s gangly guitarist-front man, Ric Ocasek (above), the LP is hardly middle of the road—it ranges “from country to hard core.” Once again, Ocasek is producing by himself and sharing lead vocals with bassist-heartthrob Ben Orr. With the LP’s first single, You Are the Girl, already revving up for the charts, the Cars are headed for one of the Fall’s biggest tours.
God bless Kate Smith. More than a year after her June 17, 1986 death, the pop diva is finally going to be buried. Always afraid of being underground (even during New York City cab strikes she refused to ride the subways), Smith stipulated in her will that she be “interred in a mausoleum of rose-colored granite, hermetically sealed, sufficient to contain my remains alone.” The resulting structure was initially rejected as too large and garish by the cemetery of St. Agnes Catholic Church in Lake Placid, N.Y., setting off a bitter dispute between family members and friends. But after long negotiations, church officials have relented—making “everything peaceful again,” in the words of Kate’s sister, Helena Steene. Now Kate will be laid to rest before the winter moon comes over the mountain.
It’s not easy being Pope. During the 240 hours of his U.S. tour, which starts on Sept. 10, John Paul II will visit nine cities in 10 days, deliver 49 speeches and homilies, and have an estimated total of 16,000 media hounds on his heels. He’ll travel in two bullet-proof vehicles, field protests from gay rights and birth control advocates and endure the repertoires of brass bands and the routines of stand-up comedians—all while scalpers sell free tickets at up to $100 a pop and entrepreneurs hawk Pope-on-a-rope soap and “I partied with the Pope” T-shirts. Peace be with him.
The Album We’ll Remember the Year By: Bruce Springsteen’s totally unexpected new LP, Tunnel of Love…The Most Overdue Solo Debut: Robbie Robertson’s as-yet-untitled October album, because after almost 30 years as a musician, the Band’s ex-leader is finally releasing his own LP…Books We’ll Give as Christmas Gifts: Tip O’Neill’s Man of the House, Katharine Hepburn’s The Making of The African Queen, Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers…Trends that Make Our Civilization Nifty: Brewpubs, bars that make their own beer…Musical lunchboxes, letting kids eat while listening to their built-in AM/FM radios…the Scarlett O’Hara hairdo, anticipating the Gone With the Wind remake…the African influence in food, clothes and decor…the new Tammy Bakker cosmetic look, just in time for Halloween…The Man Most Likely To Be a Has-Been in Two Sports: Bo Jackson…The Title Most Conspicuously Absent From the Fall Book Lists: Gary Hart’s One Man’s Luck.
30 Years Ago: On Oct. 4, 1957, the U.S.S.R. launched the world’s first man-made satellite, Sputnik I. For some (like these Muscovites viewing a model) the 184-pound satellite was an object of awe. For many Americans, it was a source of panic and embarrassment. Increased education and defense spending were urged. An inquiry was opened by the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee. The Space Age had begun.
15 Years Ago: On Oct. 10, 1972, after four months of investigative digging, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (left) and Carl Bernstein published the first major story about the Watergate affair. Their disclosure about the operations of CREEP, a cabal of agents hired to sabotage the Democratic presidential campaign, ignited the chain reaction that led to President Nixon’s resignation less than two years later.
60 Years Ago: On Sept. 30, 1927, Babe Ruth hit his 60th home run of the season. It was a Yankee Stadium shot so close to the right field line that Washington Senators pitcher Tom Zachary argued the ball was foul. Zachary lost the argument, and minutes later the Sultan of Swat was whooping, “Sixty, count ’em, 60! Let’s see some other son of a bitch match that!” In 154-game seasons, no one ever has.
5 Years Ago: On Sept. 14, 1982, Princess Grace of Monaco died in a car crash. The former actress’ British Rover 3500 went out of control along a twisting French Riviera road, plummeting down a 45-foot embankment, and one of the last members of an endangered species—the ’50s cool sex goddess—was gone.
25 Years Ago: On Oct. 22, 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis began. President John F. Kennedy blockaded Cuba and threatened to invade unless Soviet missile bases, discovered through reconnaissance photos of the island, were dismantled. Accusations were exchanged, advisers huddled. Khrushchev sent letters and made denials, Kennedy went on national TV and gave interviews in the Oval Office. After six days of world-rattling tension the Russians agreed to American demands, and at no time since have major powers seemed so close to full-scale war.