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TV REVIEW : Stars Align in 'Foreign Affairs'

March 17, 1993|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Foreign Affairs" (tonight at 5, 7 and 9 on TNT), a real charmer, lives up to its promising teaming of Joanne Woodward and Brian Dennehy.

They meet on a plane bound for London, where Woodward, an astringent English professor on sabbatical, plans to work on a book, and Dennehy, a Tulsa sewage engineer, intends to vacation and do a bit of research on his ancestors.

It takes no clairvoyant to know that these two are eventually going to get together, so our stars, working from Chris Bryant's adaptation of Alison Lurie's novel, make the getting there fun.

Right from the start Dennehy is attracted to Woodward's prof, which is a compliment considering her drab look. She, however, describes him to a London friend (Ian Richardson) as "hardly literate and dresses like Roy Rogers." The truth is that his cowboy gear is quite well-tailored.

Indeed, Dennehy has all our sympathy, confronted on the one side by Woodward's intellectual snobbery and the other by occasional British social snobbery. He may be self-made, but he's a well-spoken, well-mannered, considerate--and a remarkably patient--man. Gradually, it dawns on Woodward, a divorcee, that the guy really is a treasure--and rich besides.

Directed by Jim O'Brien with a sure sense of nuance and understatement, "Foreign Affairs" evokes a sense of the transitory quality of life while providing wonderful roles for its consummate stars.

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