Steamy 'Homefront' delivers poor history, but engaging melodrama

TV REVIEW

September 24, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Wow,was there ever a lot of sex in America in the autumn of 1945.

At least that's how "Homefront," premiering at 9:30 tonight on WJZ-TV (Channel 13), sees it. The weekly drama, which replaces "thirtysomething" in ABC's lineup, makes small-town America in the 1940s feel just like Dallas in the 1980s and Knot's Landing in the 1990s.

Gee, dad, was it really that way or does it just look like it because David Jacobs, the executive producer here, was also the producer for "Dallas" and "Knots Landing"?

On the other hand, there was the baby boom. Forget what you did during the war, daddy. What did you do after the war? And who did you do it with?

"Homefront," though bad history, is pretty good melodrama. And it's all warm and fuzzy in the siren song of nostalgia it starts crooning from the opening credits.

"In the autumn of 1945, America was invincible," a narrator's voice tells us. "The counter tops at the soda fountain were made of marble. Soda cost a nickel. And coke, well, it only meant cola."

As this is said, we watch a montage of family-album photos of joyous soldiers and their wives and lovers and children hugging and kissing, we hear the sounds of a big band music. The montage ends, and tonight's episode begins with a tight focus shot of a woman's dress as she reaches in to pad her bra.

That's "Homefront" in miniature -- the roseate glow of remembrance, the pumped-up feeling of invincibility that was briefly rekindled for real following Operation Desert Storm last year, and sex. Think of it as a Roger Ailes campaign commercial for George Bush -- but with lots of heavy breathing.

The story revolves around three families in an unnamed Midwestern town, where several GIs are returning after the war. Included in the mix are two war brides -- one English, one Italian.

Overall, the acting is very good. Stand-outs include Kyle Chandler as Jeff Metcalf (boy, does he look like David Nelson of "Ozzie and Harriet"), who became involved with his older brother's girlfriend while the brother was overseas. Alexandra Wilson, as the girlfriend, is also impressive.

"Homecoming" hums the way "Dallas" and "Knots" hum -- zipping from one sexual and emotional complication and set of lovers to another. It's easy on the eyes. It's fun to watch. But remember, it's our past measured in padded bras and unzipped zippers.

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