'Torkelsons' is familiar but engaging TELEVISION REVIEW

September 21, 1991|By Orlando Sentinel

OK, so the most revolutionary new program of the fall season belongs to Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin.

But in network television, where the conservatives remain firmly in control, viewers must content themselves with discovering new flavors for familiar products.

"The Torkelsons" (8:30 tonight, Channel 2) is an engaging domestic sitcom built around the family's teen-age daughter.

What sets this show apart are some things we haven't seen on prime time in a while -- a female head of household and the state ofOklahoma.

Actually, we don't see Pyramid Corners, Okla. (where the series is set), but we hear the melodious Okie twang in the voices, especially those of 14-year-old Dorothy Jane (Olivia Burnette) and her mother, Millicent (Connie Ray).

There are four other kids and a grandfatherly boarder (William Schallert, the dad on "The Patty Duke Show"), but Ray and Burnette steal the show.

Burnette, with eyes like saucers and a head of cascading curls, steals your heart as winsome Dorothy Jane, who directs plaintive monologues to "the man on the moon" from the window seat in her bedroom.

Chagrined by her ragged lifestyle and eccentric relatives, Dorothy Jane tells the moon man, "My actual family lives in Palm Beach and drives a fancy car."

Ray steals the laughs as the brassy, embattled single mother trying to stay a step ahead of the repo man.

"Whenever we get attached to a major appliance it goes out the door," says Dorothy Jane. "I felt the same way about your father," Millicent snaps.

Not to worry. The Torkelsons -- and "The Torkelsons" -- are doing just fine without him.

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