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SHOWS FOR YOUNGSTERS AND THEIR PARENTS TOO : 'Ambitious' version of Stevenson's 'Kidnapped' sets sail on the Family Channel

November 05, 1995|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When the Family Channel airs its two-part version of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel Kidnapped, it'll be "the ambitious version, the real story, not the Classic Comic Book take," according to Tony Thomopoulos, CEO of MTM and the Family Channel.

The sprawling, 4-hour movie, which was shot in Ireland--and not available for preview--purports to offer "the complete novel, not the abridged version, like the four others [movie versions] before it," adds star Armand Assante, who stepped in--after production began--for actor Christopher Reeve, who suffered a broken neck and paralysis in a horseback riding accident.

Assante stars as exiled warrior Alan Breck Stewart in "Kidnapped's" tale of Scotland's birth. Brian McCardie is young David Balfour, who finds himself a captive on the same ship as Stewart.

"It's such a faithful adaptation and very much the story Stevenson wrote, not some truncated version" stresses Assante, from the set in Florida of his latest movie, "Striptease," where he went directly from "Kidnapped's" 10-week shoot.

"Kidnapped," the actor points out, is often viewed "as a romantic boy's novel," when in fact "it's about a rite of passage into manhood, a boy who finds his own identity." Assante says his character "is a political fugitive who lives by his own code." The film tries to show "there are virtues to courage and valor and code and honor that David comes to learn through meeting someone not unlike himself, since the characters are like two orphans in the storm."

Stewart, he adds, "learns through David to stop fostering his illusions."

Thomopoulos says, "It's a timeless classic adventure tale that offers an opportunity to bring contemporary new minds to 18th-Century Scotland, introduce them to that period of time. It'll also teach them that people hold true to strong beliefs and follow their convictions.

"What we've done is try to help the viewers guide themselves through a complex story in visual dramatic form."

Part 1 of "Kidnapped" airs Sunday at 7 p.m.; P a rt 2 airs Monday at 8 p.m. on the Family Channel. For ages 4 and up.

(A 1938 version of "Kidnapped," which stars Warner Baxter and Freddie Bartholomew, bears little resemblance to Stevenson's book; 1948's version stars Roddy McDowall and Dan O'Herlihy; the 1971 British version features Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Jack Hawkins and Donald Pleasance. The only version available on video is Disney's 1960 edition, starring Peter Finch, Peter O'Toole and James MacArthur. All versions have been called rather plodding by most critics.)

More Family Shows

Maurice Sendak's Little Bear (Mondays, noon, Nickelodeon) offers an animated series based on the books written by Else Homelund Minarik and illustrated by Sendak. It marks the first TV series based on Sendak's work. "Little Bear" tells the tale of a young cub, his friends, family and adventures in the safety of their forest home. For ages 2 to 6.

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First seen as a "miniseries" in syndication and available on video, Nickelodeon airs The Adventures of Timmy the Tooth (Monday through Nov. 17, 2:30 p.m.), the musical puppet series about Timmy and his pal, Brush Brush. His all-knowing guide, Mr. Wisdom, helps Timmy face obstacles, including the evil Cavity Goon. For ages 2 to 6.

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Can't get enough of irrepressible Urkel? Now you can catch his Family Matters weekdays on TBS (3:05 and 3:35 p.m.), as well as local KTLA (weekdays 6:30 p.m.) and cable's WGN (weekdays 2 p.m., weekdays and Saturdays 4 p.m.). Of course, there are the first-run episodes on ABC, Friday at 8 p.m. For ages 4 and up.

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The popular Highway to Heaven has come to the Family Channel (weekdays, 2 and 8 p.m.). Starring the late actors Michael Landon and Victor French, which ran from 1984-89. For ages 6 and up.

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