ABC (Sun., April 29, 9 P.M. ET)
Shallow but entertaining, this TV movie tells the tragic tale of the Wilson brothers. Dennis (Bruce Greenwood) is a bikini-chasing surfer. Brian (Greg Kean) is a musical genius who puts their singing group, the Beach Boys, on the path to stardom.
Each reacts to success and fixation on their domineering father (Arlen Dean Snyder) in a different way. Brian feeds his insecurity with food and drugs and eventually becomes a catatonic recluse. Dennis goes into a tailspin of drug and alcohol abuse that ends with his death by drowning at 39.
The movie assumes its audience has more than a passing acquaintance with Beach Boy lore. For instance, one character says to Brian, “At least 1 haven’t turned my living room into a sandbox,” but it is never shown or explained that Brian at one point had a huge pile of sand dumped into his house and placed his piano in the middle. Dennis’s relationship with Charlie Manson is never made clear, either. (One day Dennis picked up one of Charlie’s girls hitchhiking, and the next day the whole “family” had moved into his house uninvited. They nearly drove Wilson to bankruptcy before they left months later.)
Even though it’s unfocused and superficial, the drama is eventful. It is also well acted, especially by Greenwood, who brings a tangy, wired Dennis Quaid quality to his role. The surfing music and the wildly mutating hairstyles alone are almost enough to keep you tuned in.