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Tv Reviews : The Fall Tv Season : 'Adam' Redux; 'designing Women'

September 29, 1986|HOWARD ROSENBERG | Times TV Critic

"Adam" was a highlight of the 1983 season, a provocative, enormously potent NBC movie that drew attention to America's missing children through the story of John and Reve Walsh, whose young son, Adam, was abducted and murdered.

Now comes "Adam: His Song Continues," at 9 tonight on Channels 4, 36 and 39, which traces the Walshes' lives following the telecast of the 1983 movie.

Their suffering now assumes another dimension, the strains on their marriage and family life intensified by John's continued lobbying activities and obsession with the missing children problem. He winds tighter and tighter as new cases of missing children remind the Walshes of their own loss.

Reve becomes pregnant, meanwhile, leading to a particularly touching scene when the child is born with "wet lung" and John pleads with the dead Adam to "use whatever pull you have" with God to save the infant.

Daniel J. Travanti and JoBeth Williams again give stirring performances as the Walshes in a story written by Oliver Hailey and directed by Robert Markowitz. Yet, this seems to be a movie offering no compelling reason for viewing.

For one thing, it's relentlessly heavy and somber. For another, the story of Adam and his parents has already been told in a previous movie that became a powerful catalyst for a national campaign to find missing children, and this two-hour update seems only to belabor a point.

What's more, the Denver Post recently won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles revealing that most missing children are not kidnap victims--in contrast to the impression given by the first Adam movie--but are runaways or mired in custody disputes.

As was the case in the first movie, the names and pictures of 50 missing children are shown at the end of the story, only this time those thought abducted by strangers are identified separately.

Meanwhile, there's obviously reason to publicize the plight of all categories of missing children, no matter how small, just as there's need to call attention to every worthy cause. You wonder, though, if two hours of "Adam: His Song Continues" are two too many.

Can four spirited women get along as partners in an Atlanta decorating business? Big question. Can they do it and be funny? Bigger question.

The premiere of "Designing Women" at 9:30 tonight on CBS (Channels 2 and 8) provides fewer answers than indications. And the indications are that even good performers in an appealing setting won't make "Designing Woman" funny without better-designed scripts. Snappy, yes. Laughs, no.

Because of its premise, "Designing Women" has been handily characterized as a rip-off of NBC's "Golden Girls," another comedy about four diverse women. The similarity stops there, however.

Tonight's principals: Delta Burke is thrice-divorced femme fatale Suzanne Sugarbaker and Dixie Carter is her glamorous, wisecracking sister, Julia. Jean Smart is office manager Charlene Winston and Annie Potts is recently divorced Mary Jo Shively, whose former husband catches the eye of Suzanne in tonight's episode.

"If sex were fast food, there would be an arch over your bed," Julia tells Suzanne. This is a half-hour of Little Macs, though, punchless punch lines that leave this very good cast all dressed up with no place to go.

Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and her husband, Harry Thomason, are the executive producers of "Designing Woman," which is favorably notched between "Newhart and "Cagney & Lacey." Burke and Carter also were in "Filthy Rich," another Bloodworth-Thomason sitcom that was more smart alecky than funny. The arch topples.

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