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SHOWS FOR YOUNGSTERS AND THEIR PARENTS TOO : Here's a show with pirates, neon and a classic story too

January 23, 1994|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What if Robert Louis Stevenson had known in 1883, when he wrote "Treasure Island," that his book's treasure hunt would take place more than a hundred years later in a casino hotel in a desert resort town called Las Vegas?

He probably would have gambled, as NBC has, that it would attract an audience. The network's hourlong adaptation airs Tuesday with many of the swashbuckling chararacters intact.

Corey Carrier, who played Young Indy in ABC's "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles," stars as 12-year-old Robbie (Jim Hawkins in the book) who, while on a vacation with his parents at the hotel, meets the legendary Long John Silver (Anthony Zerbe). After finding a magical treasure map, Robbie and Long John team up to find the loot before the bad pirates.

Because Treasure Island owner Steve Wynn is executive producer, some viewers may deem the adventure a long commercial for the elaborate resort. But producer-director Scot Garen, who previously directed Disney specials, including "Mickey's 60th Birthday," insists that Treasure Island was used "merely as a setting. We got to use literally $50 million worth of sets to convey our story."

Those "sets" include two full-scale 90-foot ships, the pirates' Hispaniola and the British frigate HMS Royal Brittania, both capable of ear-shattering cannon and musket volleys. The ships sail on Buccaneer Bay and Skull Point, which surround the hotel's 1 3/4-acre frontage. Last year's big-bang demolition of the Dunes Hotel--another Wynn project--is incorporated into the story line.

For Corey, 13, it was the lure of swordplay that drew him to the telefilm. It's also what he thinks will appeal to most to his peers.

"It's got pirates," he says enthusiastically, "And it's in Las Vegas, which is as bright as it looks on television. The whole theme, though, is that if you can dream it, it can come true. The adventure and the sword fighting are what kids are going to like."

In addition to the swordplay, the underlying story focuses on Robbie's relationship with his father, Garen says.

"Basically, the arc of the story is where Robbie learns that the real treasure lies in your imagination," he says. "The child's spirit in his father is released and the two of them experience a new relationship by the story's end."

"Treasure Island: The Adventure Begins . . . " airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on NBC. For ages 10 and up.

MORE FAMILY SHOWS

The Higgins family discovers a piano in the basement of the roommates' apartment on Disney's live-action/puppet series Piano Lessons Under the Umbrella Tree (Sunday 11:30 a.m.-noon). Thinking it'll be easy to learn to play piano, Holly begins to take lessons with Jon Kimura Parker, a concert pianist who lives nearby. Meanwhile, Malcolm, a little mouse who lives in the piano, encourages Holly by telling her tales of her Higgins relatives who played the piano in the past. The roommates attend Parker's concert and his performance inspires Holly to continue practicing. For ages 2 to 8.

Nickelodeon presents the premiere of two new miniseries installments of The Tomorrow People (Saturdays 6-6:30 p.m.), which began last year as a five-part miniseries. The kiddie sci-fi-adventure show focuses on a group of telepathic kids who have the power to "teleport"--use their minds to transport their bodies from one place to another--and "mind merge," which is the ability to holographically re-create a moment in time. For ages 6 and up.

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