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TV REVIEWS : A Warm Ride on 'The Road Home'

March 05, 1994|HOWARD ROSENBERG

On the road again.

Travel continues to be a central itinerary of prime time, with Americans shown as constantly in transition and either returning to or fleeing their roots. So when "The Road Home" opens at 9 tonight on Channels 2 and 8 with a family in a van on a highway, you know this is a one-way trip.

Although the weekly CBS family drama has a persuasive cast that yields some pleasing moments, it's just a little too warm and contrived even for Southern comfort.

The large, graceful family home where Allison Matson (Karen Allen), her history teacher-husband, Jack (Terence Knox), and their kids spend their summer vacations is an idyllic spread along the North Carolina tidewaters. However, not everything is as orderly as it seems. Allison's father (Ed Flanders) has a history of philandering, the family's failing shrimping business is creating tensions between her father and brother, and her mother (Frances Sternhagen) may have Alzheimer's. "I'm getting old, and it's as simple as that," she insists. But stay tuned.

There's something quite appealing about the gentleness of "The Road Home," even if its romantically sealed-off universe minus TV and video games is almost surreal. Yet the premiere is as cluttered with script devices as Southern aphorisms, and the Matsons' inevitable decision to indefinitely extend their stay--this looks like a lifetime commitment--is made too swiftly to be credible.

These are sensitive, soulful people who seem to float through this hour almost effortlessly. But to prove that they like fun, too, the whole brood ends up dancing together in the rain. Very precious. Too precious.

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