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TV REVIEWS : 'American Story' Lapses in the Telling

November 28, 1992|HOWARD ROSENBERG

"An American Story" is a drama about a group of idealistic veterans who set out to end corruption in their small Texas town after returning from World War II. It begins like ABC's "Homefront" before becoming "Hopalong Cassidy," with the dishonest local mayor and his cutthroat sheriff sidekick getting outgunned by the gallant leader of the white-hatted reformers.

Airing at 9 p.m. Sunday on CBS (Channels 2 and 8), this is surely the most inept "Hallmark Hall of Fame" production in years.

Led by their commanding officer, George Meade (Brad Johnson), the men of the 26th Division arrive back in tiny Ovington after brave duty in Germany only to discover that while they were fighting for democracy abroad, racism and tyranny continued to rule the home front. War hero Juan Medina (David Labiosa) can't get a decent job because he's Mexican-American. Another returning GI, Tom Sizemore (Jesse Meadows), can't get his head together in this oppressive environment or get much sympathy from his wife (Lisa Blount). And ordinary townspeople can't get a break from the graft-ridden local administration.

What to do? Assisted by the sympathetic widow of one of their fallen comrades (Kathleen Quinlan), the veterans form their own political party in hopes of unseating the mayor in the coming election. But Meade, urged on by his ambitious wife (Patricia Clarkson) and snooty family, jolts the other veterans by supporting the mayor.

Will he come to his senses and rejoin his old friends? Will the veterans prevail in the election? Hey, are these the guys who whipped the Jerries or what?

Director John Gray's script is not only predictable but, as a bonus for aficionados of camp, preposterous and potholed. An election-rigging sequence is simply ludicrous, for example. And the veterans keep referring to their standing in "the polls," as if Gallop and other pollsters were surveying voters in this speck of a town.

It's one of many lapses in this speck of a story.

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