No 'Changes' in Steel she's still bad


April 01, 1991|By Michael Hill

Danielle Steel hit a grand slam for NBC against the World Series last fall. Now the network is hoping she'll slam dunk the NCAA tonight.

Yes, she's back, and bad, actually worse than ever.

This time it's "Changes" with Cheryl Ladd as our heroine, the rising network news star Melanie Adams. The two-hour movie will be on Channel 2 (WMAR) tonight at 9 o'clock, just as Duke and Kansas are squaring off over on CBS, Channel 11 (WBAL).

The movie plays like "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" meets some bad daytime soap opera. It's a melodramatic wallow. Get these plot developments. The big story Melanie is working on involves a sick little girl getting a life-threatening heart operation. That's right off the bat.

While doing the story, she falls for the hunk of a heart surgeon, Peter Hallam, played by Michael Nouri. Then the network offers her the dream job of morning show co-host.

The problem is that the dream job is in New York and the heart surgeon is in Los Angeles. What's an absurdly rich woman to do?

Wait, there's more! Melanie has twin daughters and has raised them by herself because she was abandoned, at age 19, by her husband when she refused to have an abortion! It was then she began her career.

And Peter has three kids, whose mother died when she decided not to have the heart-lung transplant she needed. This one literally goes for the heartstrings.

Of course, Peter does drive an $80,000 Mercedes, and when Melanie first visits his Bel Air mansion and accepts his offer of a glass of wine, he asks his housekeeper to bring up a $300 bottle from the cellar.

But Danielle wants us to know that rich people have problems, too. She must consider it her own little bit of public service. Such selflessness is so admirable.

If it weren't for works like "Changes," the American public just would not understand something that turns out to be the main theme of this film -- when you combine families, it can be so difficult to accept your new husband's servants. Clearly this is one of the country's underreported problems. "60 Minutes" should do a segment on it.

And can you imagine how Melanie's twins felt when she told them that instead of spending a month at Martha's Vineyard, they would have to spend half their vacation at Peter's rented house in Malibu. Life is tough at the top.

Among the many sins of "Changes" is its complete sexism. There are a few mentions of the possibility of Peter moving to New York instead of the other way around, but that is quickly dismissed, as if it's biological that the woman has to sacrifice her career.

The name of the movie should help you do the right thing. If you see "Changes" come on your TV, change the channel.

It's been quite a while since PBS has offered up a top-notch multi-part essay, along the lines of "Civilisation" or "Cosmos."

"The Shape of the World" might not be quite in that league, but this six-part series that premieres tonight at 9 o'clock on Maryland Public Broadcasting, Channels 22 and 67, does let its chosen subject -- in this case, maps -- illuminate all of history, in the way art did for "Civilisation" and science for "Cosmos."

In tonight's opening hour, it is made clear how maps show us the conception of the world of various civilizations, how the scientific attempts of the Greeks to conceive of the geography around them was put on a detour in the Christian era when cartographers struggled to include Biblical concepts on their maps.

Maps were symbols of power and order; somehow if you could map your kingdom, then you could have control over it.

Virtually all the earliest mapmakers put their own countries at the center of the world. Think about that the next time you look at a map of the world, and wonder how those maps affect our international outlook, and vice-versa.

"The Shape of the World" looks like a nice six-week trip. At least you know you won't get lost.


* A network news star must choose between love and career.

CAST: Cheryl Ladd, Michael Nouri

TIME: Tonight at 9 o'clock


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