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SHOWS FOR YOUNGSTERS AND THEIR PARENTS TOO : The opposite of Lassie and Timmy? That would be Showtime's 'Johnny & Clyde'

August 13, 1995|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

You can't miss with a story about a boy and a dog, right?

But, writer-director Bill Bindley wondered, what if the boy hated his dog?

So, along with his partner and Indiana-based brother Scott (they write via modem), Bindley penned "Johnny & Clyde" for Showtime, which premieres it this week.

The comic adventure pits 10-year-old Johnny (John White, 14) against a bloodhound named Clyde (Jethro). Johnny, whose family has moved constantly, wants to prove once and for all that he's not a problem child, but he meets up with the accident-prone Clyde, who quickly becomes attached to him.

"It's a snowball effect for kids who move a lot," says Bindley from his Malibu production office. "They get into some kind of misunderstanding in one town, it goes into their records and gets passed along to the next town, [where they] assume the kid's a problem."

Being mistakenly accused of something is a universal issue for youth. "That's something that kids can really relate to," Bindley says, "being blamed for something that's not their fault and not having the wherewithal to do anything about it."

Slowly, Johnny realizes he and Clyde have quite a bit in common. The jowly pooch, whose previous owner was a thief, had been given his own undeserved reputation.

The young actor developed a relationship with Jethro during the 5 1/2-week shoot in and around White's home town of Toronto. "In real life, I really liked the dog a lot," White says from home. "He was just great and worked really well with his trainer."

The messages that White hopes his peers and friends get from the movie is, "how important friendship is and be kind to animals. But the big message is, you can't judge a book by its cover. You really need to get to know both a person and even a dog before you make a decision about them."

Bindley agrees with his young star. "It's OK to be the new kid," he says, "and it's important to remember people's perceived reputations aren't always accurate!"

"Johnny & Clyde" airs Sunday at 6 p.m. on Showtime. For ages 5 and up.

Another Family Show

Shot for $500,000, Alice Through the Looking Glass, based on Lewis Carroll's classic novel, was shown once on NBC. That was Nov. 7, 1966, when the telefilm was recognized as the most costly of its time.

Featuring Ricardo Montalban, Agnes Moorehead, Tom and Dick Smothers, Jimmy Durante and Nanette Fabray, it starred Judi Rolin as Alice. The young Alice falls asleep in front of a chessboard and dreams of traveling through a looking glass. Among the strangers she encounters is Jack Palance as the evil Jabberwocky.

Shelved since its first broadcast, the made-for-TV production made its way to the Disney Channel via SFM Entertainment, a distribution company that had acquired the rights to it. "It's a classic story that holds up, not necessarily to today's production values, but it has a charm," says Bruce Rider, senior vice president of programming for the Disney Channel.

"Back in 1966, there wasn't such a thing as a secondary market. Shows played on the network and that was the beginning and end of it," Rider explains. "There was some syndication market, but it was nowhere near as substantial as it is today. So even though it was considered a classic even then, it wasn't aired again."

When "Looking Glass" originally aired, not many viewers had color TVs. Rider quotes a review that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle the day after the broadcast: "Any child, who saw 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' in black and white last night, I weep for. Someday that child must have an opportunity to see it in color."

And that opportunity arrives Wednesday.

"Alice Through the Looking Glass" airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on the Disney Channel. Both for ages 5 and up.

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