The series is called "Homefront," and it will deal with triumphant GIs returning from World War II when it becomes part of ABC's prime-time lineup this fall.
In the pilot episode designed to sell the show to ABC, the opening sequence begins with an American flag filling the screen. We see a newspaper headline that says: "War Ends." A woman narrator tells us, "In the autumn of 1945, America was invincible. . . . The counter tops at the soda fountain were still made of marble. Sodas cost a nickel. And coke? Well, it only meant cola."
The series' co-creator, Lynn Marie Latham, noting that the opening may be changed, says it had a purpose: "We wanted to give them (ABC) the feel." And a pop song of the period, "It's Been a Long, Long Time," made famous by Harry James and his band, socks home the point throughout the sequence.
Is TV's new network season going to be, none too subtly, a fond, sometimes rose-colored remembrance of better times in the aftermath of the Gulf War? Not entirely. But we will be getting three new weekly series which, while vastly different, hark back to the 1940s and '50s with themes that represent for many viewers not merely nostalgia but also moments of significant national triumph and comfort.
"Reaffirmation of American values is the key phrase here," says Les Moonves, president of Lorimar TV, which is producing two of the three period series, "Homefront" and NBC's "I'll Fly Away," a one-hour drama that is clearly a significant attempt to deal with the early days of the civil rights movement through the eyes of a 1950s Southern family and its young black housekeeper.
The third series, "Brooklyn Bridge," is a half-hour comedy-drama from CBS that concerns a 1950s family living in a Brooklyn apartment "when the Dodgers played in Ebbets Field and licorice was a penny a twist." Adds CBS: "It is the story of a family and an era when neighborhood streets were safe, doctors made house calls and the door was always open to friends and neighbors."
The show, which is only now being cast, is from producer Gary David Goldberg, whose "Family Ties" series captured the absorption with material success in the '80s through its central character, Alex Keaton (Michael J. Fox).
"There's no question that America right now is at a high point," says Moonves, adding that both "Homefront" and "I'll Fly Away" "make us feel good about America." While Joshua Brand, co-creator of "I'll Fly Away," notes that "the civil rights movement has changed the course of history and in many ways changed nothing," Moonves says of the new shows:
"They are reaffirming a good feeling, pride. I think all three shows may be trying to get into that. A year ago, I don't think the networks would have been as receptive. A year ago, shows like 'Cop Rock' and 'Twin Peaks' (both now canceled, along with 'thirtysomething' and the Vietnam drama 'China Beach') had a harsher reality to them. 'I'll Fly Away' and 'Homefront,' while dealing with problems, take a more positive view. I think America is much more ready for these shows than maybe it would have been a year or two ago."
Those who opposed the Gulf War may well be offended at what seems an attempt by a show like "Homefront" to capitalize on the recent military victory, but polls have shown that about 80% of Americans approved of Operation Desert Storm. In fact, "Homefront," previously titled "1945," was in development before the Gulf War.
All three of the new period series clearly stem from different creative intentions. But TV executives, psychologists and ad agencies suggest that, in addition to finding receptive networks, they come as many viewers are seeking more than merely Gulf War victory parades: They are looking for simpler, old-fashioned values as an antidote to crime, drug use, pollution, soaring prices, the recession, the greed-oriented '80s and insecurity about the nation's future.
"I think there's going to be a shift in the next couple of years away from hard-core, in-your-face, cancer-ridden drama on television," says Brandon Stoddard, president of ABC Productions. "I think that people would like to come home and watch a television show that lifts their spirits but also underlines their capacity to control their lives and destinies--programs that show the possibilities of human beings."
The comfort factor is, in fact, obvious elsewhere in the networks' fall schedules as familiar old stars--James Garner, Redd Foxx, Carol Burnett and Robert Guillaume among them--are being brought back in new weekly programs.