Tepid story keeps Roseanne from scoring

Television

November 13, 1991|By Michael Hill

Roseanne Arnold (nee Barr) put on shoulder pads before she ventured into the world of made-for-TV movies, bringing husband Tom along for the ride.

She needn't have bothered to protect herself. "Backfield in Motion" takes no chances that might lead to danger. Roseanne must have figured she's offended enough people over the years, and she's not going to add anyone to the list with this movie.

The result is a tepid pabulum, a few Roseanne zingers in by a plot that could have come out of an after-school special.

Arnold plays a big-city mother who moves out to a small suburban town where the houses are all made out of ticky-tacky and all look just the same. She's a widow, starting over selling real estate. Her teen-age son does not like the move one bit.

This town is head over heels about high school football, and junior eventually joins the team, coached by your basic fascist type. Roseanne's family situation causes her to pay special attention to a discussion of the school's annual father-son game. She proposes a game matching the mothers against their sons.

Can she get enough of these stuck-in-the-'50s, Stepford Wives women interested to form a team? And if she does, will they pull out a victory in the last second? And, more importantly, will they learn some big lessons about life in the process?

These are the types of questions that are supposed to keep you interested for two hours tonight, beginning at 9 o'clock on Channel 13 (WJZ).

Hubbie Tom plays the school's easy-going assistant principal. Turns out he was a big-time high school jock whose career was ended by an injury inflicted by ye-olde fascist football coach. Revenge is the motive when the assistant principal takes over coaching the women's squad, but romance ensues when he catches sight of Roseanne with a number on her back.

Roseanne essentially plays the same smart-alecky character she does on her sitcom and in her stand-up routine. Her skewering remarks about her new neighborhood are often on target but at times seem arrogant and self-centered. Maybe she should take the time to get to know her new neighbors before she stereotypes them for the benefit of a quick one-liner. Conchata ,, Ferrell, one of the new additions to "L.A. Law," adds her considerable weight to the cast.

Roseanne does take time to poke fun at herself. It is suggested that she sing the national anthem before the Big Game. She looks directly at the camera and says she doesn't think that would be a good idea.

"Backfield in Motion" is filled with such bits of farcical filmmaking -- some scenes are sped up, others are greatly exaggerated -- that tell you that you're not supposed to take all this too seriously. Which is another way of saying that if you've got something better to do, do it.

As for the male Arnold, he projects a pleasant, nice-guy personality, but he plows through most of his lines like a mule working on the back 40.

*

Say the name of our 50th state, Hawaii, and the mind conjures pictures of lush tropical forests, pristine sand beaches, crystal clear water, warm ocean breezes.

But according to tonight's National Geographic Special, beneath those tourist-bureau images lies a very different reality. PBS' "Hawaii: Strangers in Paradise" will be on Maryland Public Television, channels 22 and 67, at 8 o'clock.

This beautifully filmed hour chronicles a variety of environmental woes that western civilization has visited upon these idyllic pieces of volcanic remains.

Just as a for instance, consider that a few ants walking off a boat meant that a new, aggressive strain of insect could overrun the island. The local insect population is virtually defenseless against these invaders, and species are disappearing at an astounding rate, many before they can even be discovered. Wait until you see the amazing film of the insect-eating caterpillar fighting for its life.

Such losses have further ramifications. Environmental scientists now dangle from cliffs to fertilize the flowers of an endangered species of plant because of the apparent disappearance of a certain moth that used to perform the duties.

Other environmentalists use guns and dogs to kill feral pigs, an introduced species that wreaks havoc on the delicate rain forest floor. In some parts of the islands, introduced cattle and goats have helped strip the ground cover. The eroding soil goes into the ocean where it chokes the coral reefs just offshore.

Hawaii has become a microcosm of what industrialized civilization did to the whole world. It was turned into a factory for the plants and animals that make a profit -- sugar cane, pineapples, cows, tourists -- to the detriment of many other species.

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