Canceled shows could live on as movies


June 12, 1991|By Michael Hill

For the few, the devoted and, some might say, the demented, last Monday night was a sad occasion -- the final episode of "Twin Peaks," the ABC show that burned a bright but short meteoric path across prime time.

Many arguments can be made over whether the show was killed or committed suicide, but, as anyone who stuck with it can testify, it remained until its final moment one of the most interesting, carefully crafted series ever to grace the medium.

It left, after two hours -- the last two episodes run back to back -- on Monday night at an appropriately enigmatic moment. Consider that co-creator David Lynch directed the last hour and that most of it took place in Dancing Dwarf country where Agent Cooper had gone to try to stem the flow of evil into the world and, well, you get the picture.

"Twin Peaks" is not the only drama that attracted an intense, but limited, audience that got killed off by the networks this spring. "thirtysomething" certainly fits into that category, as do "China Beach" and "Shannon's Deal."

OK, the networks live and die by ratings, and charity cases don't pay the bills, but it would be in their best interests to see that these shows are not buried and forgotten.

That's because, while their audiences might not have been that big, they were composed of the type of people that the networks are losing to cable, cassettes and all the other uses for television that are eroding the network audience.

So, why not bring those people back to network TV -- where they could see promotions for other shows -- two or three times every year by making movie versions of all of these series.

These wouldn't be the hokey reunion-type films, of the type "Dynasty" is having this season and that probably is already in the works for "Dallas." Instead, these would be films that take the characters and follow them and their stories for two full hours.

The format -- two or three movies a year -- would probably attract the top writing, producing and directing talent from the shows' series days, people who might not be willing to commit to a 22-episode grind. This would help ensure that they would be of top quality. With heavy promotion, such movies also should attract the many fans of the series who couldn't be loyal week after week.

There is a history of some success with this format. Look at what's happened with "Columbo" on ABC. NBC seems to be moving in this direction with "Matlock."

There's an even more successful example of a TV show with a loyal-but-small audience making the profitable transition to an occasional movie -- "Star Trek." So maybe the networks should try this with some of these shows before the big screen guys get the idea.

Besides, we deserve to know what Lynch and company had in mind when they ended the series with Agent Cooper beating his head against a mirror that showed the face of the evil Bob.


A PBS show that used to be called "The AIDS Quarterly" is now "The Health Quarterly." It returns tonight at 8 o'clock on Maryland Public Television, channels 22 and 67, with an hour that focuses on the growing number of Americans that don't have health insurance.

Each edition will still have a report on AIDS, with tonight's an overview of the decade since the virus was first reported. Peter Jennings continues as the host.


For the first time, Baltimore stations were included in the local Emmy awards handed out yearly in Washington. Maryland Public Television won nine, seven for the now-canceled "Crabs," and one each for "Outdoors Maryland" and "The Civil War: A Region Divided."

Channel 2 (WMAR) garnered one in the children's category for the literacy special "Milo's Secret," which featured the puppets of "Sesame Street" veteran Kevin Clash, who is now the voice and talent behind the baby on ABC's "Dinosaurs."

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