CBS (Sun., Feb. 14, 9 p.m. ET)
At the time of his death, author Alex Haley (Roots) was researching the life of his paternal grandmother, a racially mixed woman named Queen. The network, with Haley collaborator David Stevens, has turned her story into a shoddy six-hour miniseries.
The first night is a dreadfully vacuous re-creation of the antebellum South, where Queen is born to an Alabama plantation owner (Wings’s Tim Daly) and one of his slaves (Jasmine Guy). Sunday’s flimsy “Massapiece” Theater gives way to Tuesday’s feverish vale of tears, as a grown Queen (Halle Berry), now free but spurned by both races, struggles to find her place in the world, enduring terrible deprivations and unbearable losses. Only on the final night, Thursday, does the mini come alive (and briefly at that), when Danny Glover enters the picture as Alec Haley, a widowed ferryboat skipper in Tennessee with whom Queen finds a degree of happiness.
A subhumdrum script makes for a procession of artificial performances by such people as Ossie Davis, Martin Sheen, Ann-Margret, Patricia Clarkson, Paul Winfield and George Grizzard. The project from start to finish is so remarkably superficial and unconvincing that it succeeds neither as tragedy nor as history.