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Television Reviews : 'A Hobo's Christmas'

December 05, 1987|LYNNE HEFFLEY

"A Hobo's Christmas," airing Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBS, is shamelessly sentimental, from its father-son reunion theme to the harmonica accompaniment that wavers over empty, snow-laden rail yards.

But Jeb Rosebrook's teleplay, directed by Will Mackenzie, is saved from drowning in its own syrup by pleasurable performances, topped by Barnard Hughes as crusty grandpa Chance Grovner, home for the holidays after 25 years of riding the rails.

Hughes avoids a twinkly stereotype--his cuddliness and jollity are partly a selling job to wangle a Christmas stay with son Charlie (Gerald McRaney of the CBS series "Simon & Simon") and with the grandchildren he's never met.

Hughes' grizzled, sad and savvy face reflects the scars of pride and fear that sent Chance hoboing when he was forced out of the job market, unable to provide for his wife and small son.

McRaney as the hard-nosed son, a widower cop who's bitter at dad's desertion, is one-dimensionally unsympathetic for too long. When he's finally allowed to warm up, however, we see the legacy of a child's emotion-numbing loss.

Adding some spice are Chance's down-and-out buddies, particularly William Hickey as Cincinnati Harold, who's not about to be taken in by all the Christmas bonhomie . Hughes barely holds his own against Hickey's scene-stealing eccentricities.

Don't expect many loose ends to ponder. Will Charlie ask Grandpa to stay? Will Charlie's love-interest (Wendy Crewson) move away to San Francisco? Will little Bobby (Harley Cross) get his puppy? Will Kathy (Jamie Mills) ever play the piano again?

It's all tied up in a neat, sweet, easy-to-take package.

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