NBC (Mon.-Wed., Dec. 15-17, 9 p.m. ET)
Like the old series Family, this mini lets you play voyeur in a random American home; like The Big Chill, it manages to reduce characters to their basic neuroses after only a few loud confrontations; like any soap opera, it makes others’ lives look more miserable than ours. It’s a strange form of entertainment—but it’s entertaining nonetheless. Richard Kiley and Eva Marie Saint have such a handsome home and family: Morgan (Fame) Stevens as the bad son who can’t hold on to a buck; Wendy (Airplane II) Phillips as the aging flower child who named her kid Sunshine; Jayne Atkinson as the good daughter who works for Dad’s plastics company; David (Another World) Oliver as the good son who’s getting his MBA and Max as the obedient family dog. The family feuds. If this were the ’60s, they’d war over politics; if this were the ’70s, they’d fight over feelings; but because this is the ’80s, they battle over money. They yell, fume and cry but end up laughing and playing touch football after Eva Marie offers a gushy toast to her children. Like any typical family, right? Judging from the first third of the mini, all that was available, the creators of St. Elsewhere have created the perfect bunch of characters for a show such as this—perfect because they’re all a little messed up. If they were normal, they’d be dull. If they were insane, they’d be hard to take. But since they’re just plain messed up, they’re fun to watch, because they remind us most of everyone we know (except, of course, you and me).