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August 29, 1993|STEVE HOCHMAN | Steve Hochman is a frequent contributor to TV Times and Calendar

Sex and drugs ... and Mickey Mouse?

Well, not actually. The series of rock 'n' roll documentaries and specials that the Disney Channel has been airing of late studiously sidestep the seamier side of the stories, perhaps never more so than in the new "Fleetwood Mac: Going Home," which premieres Sunday.

Anyone who has followed the 26-year history of the band--from its start as an English blues band in 1967 through its almost countless shifts in personnel to its appearance at President Clinton's Inaugural Gala this year, where it performed "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)," its 1975 hit that was adopted as the victorious campaign's theme--knows that sex and drugs were a big part of the story.

Not on the Disney Channel, though.

"There were some parameters that we knew we had to stay within the bounds of," says band co-founder and drummer Mick Fleetwood, 46, whose 1992 memoirs revealed many of the lurid details. "It's not a squeaky-clean vibe, but we knew we weren't going to be showing beer-swilling parties and God-knows-what else."

But that was something the lanky, affable Englishman found to be liberating. He'd had enough of the lurid gossip and backstage goings-on overshadowing the band's other accomplishments.

"The way Fleetwood Mac has suffered the soap-opera stuff, I just wanted to focus on the music and be able to talk about (co-founder) Peter Green and what he meant to me. I didn't want to talk about when Stevie (Nicks) and I were in love or out of love. We've had all that, everyone knows that. Let's talk about the music."

Even without the more "adult" themes, though, the series--which in its two years has included shows about Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Paula Abdul, Sting, and Crosby, Stills & Nash--has been a keystone in the Disney Channel's campaign to keep parents (and even non-parent adults) watching after the kids have gone to bed. In the last two years, "Paul McCartney: Going Home" and "Gloria Estefan: Going Home" each won the Cable ACE award for best music show.

The perception that Disney is primarily a children's outlet, says Bruce Rider, the Disney Channel's senior vice president of programming, is mistaken, with 80% of the after-9 p.m. audience being adult. The rock shows are not intended to attract new adult viewers, but more so to satisfy those who are already tuning in.

"We've worked very hard to evolve the channel into a much more broad-based channel programming for everyone in the household," Rider says.

Still, there's no intent to broaden the standards of acceptable material to be covered in the shows, he says. Artists profiled on Disney will have to keep some parts of their lives off the screen, but within the Disney guidelines they're given a lot of freedom.

"We're involved upfront before the show is made and really work with the artists," Rider says. "But at the end of the day, the artist has to be comfortable. We're not looking to tell our version of the story. But we don't get into much about the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. We're into the music and the people. We don't get into the closet too much. We're here to do music shows."

Ironically, it was working on this documentary that in part led Fleetwood to finally swear off drugs and alcohol after a quarter century of overindulgence.

"While I was putting this together with John McVie, I was a raging alcoholic and cocaine addict," Fleetwood says. "All the concert footage in the show, basically I was out of my brain. It really made me realize that I'd made it this far, but what next? I saw that at that rate I'll be out within a few years."

Now, with Fleetwood "healthy and positive," he says the documentary only serves to mark a turning point in the band's history, not its end, and a new chapter is about to start. While longtime singer Nicks has left, Fleetwood, McVie and McVie's ex-wife Christine (who had been set to retire from the band) will soldier on, joined by two new members.

"Fleetwood Mac is very much alive and we're about to go into preproduction for the next album," he says. "So there's a whole new episode, I'm afraid to tell you."

"Fleetwood Mac: Going Home" airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on the Disney Channel.

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