Does it spoil the illusion to know some of the flaws of movie-making? Stop reading. The production notes on tonight's premiere film on cable, "A Miracle in the Wilderness" (at 8 p.m. on TNT), are too rich to ignore.
Although the traditional nativity story is the subject, and Kris Kristofferson, Kim Catrall and Sheldon Peters Wolfchild are the leading players, another star is the scenery. The film was made on-location in the stark, steep Sangre de Cristo mountains of northeastern New Mexico, as rugged as Kristofferson's looks.
In brief, the plot involves a frontier couple kidnapped by an Indian warrior in an act of revenge. The chance witnessing of a birth in the wild, however, leads to the sharing of the nativity story, which turns out to resonate with tribal traditions.
Isn't it bad enough the white man usurped native American's land, without having to impose a religious mythology, too?
But there are some more practical curiosities.
For one thing, the movie is based upon the novel of that title by Paul Gallico. Yet script writer Michael Michaelian moved the story in both time and place. The book was set in 1755 New York State, while the movie is put in the 1850s. And while filming was in New Mexico, the script sets the action in Wyoming.
Even more ironic, the misplaced location was chosen for the reliability of its snow cover. But when filming began, the precipitation had not materialized. So the snow you see in the movie's high mountains actually is some 350 gallons of spray foam. * "The 1991 Billboard Music Awards" are airing tonight on the Fox network (8 o'clock, WBFF-Channel 45), and balding bandleader Paul Shaffer (of "Late Night With David Letterman") is the host. John Mellencamp, Genesis, LL Cool J, R.E.M., Young MG and Dwight Yoakam are among the performing artists. These awards are a genuine popularity poll, for the choices are based on record sales and radio play, as compiled by the music industry's weekly magazine.
* Another real-life TV news figure turns up on "Murphy Brown" tonight (at 9, Channel 11). He's Harry Smith, co-host of the daily "CBS This Morning" broadcast. In the plot, Smith hosts the fictional Humboldt Awards program.
* Correction department: Pee-wee Herman is going to be celebrating Christmas on cable's MTV network this year, but not until next week.
Media Monitor incorrectly reported on Friday that "Pee-wee's Christmas Playhouse," a repeat of a CBS special, would be seen this past Saturday morning on the rock video channel.
Wrong week. The show is actually scheduled to be screened on MTV at 11 a.m. this coming Saturday, and again at 2 p.m. on Sunday.