On Christmas, CBS is re-running "The Homecoming," the heart-warming 1971 reunion movie that spawned the series "The Waltons." On Sunday night, it's got a movie called "Baby of the Bride" that can be considered an updated version of "The Waltons"
Here's the set-up. A 53-year-old woman marries a somewhat younger man and, to their complete surprise, gets pregnant. Because he doesn't want a baby walking in on his vision of their life together, he walks out of their happy home.
The woman's daughter is also pregnant, and single. Her other daughter is a free spirit afraid of commitment. They share an apartment nearby.
One son, abandoned by his spouse, brings his two daughters home to live. The other son, a playboy, loses his stockbroker job and also shows up on the doorstep.
It's a Christmas reunion, '90s style.
So, if you want to spend your festive, holiday-season Sunday night with a completely dysfunctional family, tune in Channel 11 (WBAL) at 9 o'clock.
Actually, you'll find it to be a surprisingly interesting two hours. That's mainly because, despite the ridiculously liberal sprinkling of family disasters, these characters are treated with some respect. The pregnant grandmother is the only really outlandishly melodramatic development. Most everything else has at least a smattering of reality.
This is a follow-up to "Children of the Bride,' a TV movie that ran last year and featured Patrick Duffy as the younger spouse. Ted Shackelford, whose character on "Knots Landing" is the brother of Duffy's "Dallas" character, takes over the role this time.
Rue McClanahan, the Golden Girl, is the matriarch of this troubled clan. Kristy McNichol as the uptight, pregnant daughter
Mary is the most recognizable name in the supporting cast, which also features John Wesley Shipp as the broke stockbroker Dennis.
It takes a while for all these disparate threads to weave themselves together into anything remotely resembling a coherent plot. Even when they do, the developments and passage of time are difficult to keep straight. Just watch how the bellies of the pregnant women seem to expand drastically at odd junctures in between scenes.
Despite these problems, you do find yourself getting caught up in these people's lives. "Baby of the Bride" comes off as a low-rent "thirtysomething," though you do find yourself yearning for Hope and Michael. Hey, they might have complained a lot, but at least they were married and living together, which is more than you can say for any of these people.
Andrew, the son fleeing a broken relationship, turns out also to be running away from a custody battle with his daughters' mother, a woman he never married but who eventually did marry big bucks, the kind that can afford expensive lawyers.
Anne Bobby as Anne, the daughter afraid of commitment, steals about every scene she's in with her quirky portrayal. The film follows her on-again, off-again romance with a cop she met when he stopped her for running a red light. OK, so that's another
melodramatic development. Still, the relationship is handled decently.
Mary is the daughter who gets kind of lost in the crush of stories. We never do learn exactly what's going on with her. She seems to be around just to provide a biological counterpoint to her mother's expanding womb.
In the end, of course, everything works out a bit too neatly. Hey, it is a Christmas movie, after all. So you know the destination from the beginning. At least the trip is kind of enjoyable.
* As expected, NBC is going ahead with its plans to scrap animation on Saturday mornings. The network announced earlier this month that a Saturday version of "Today" will premiere next August.
That will run 8 to 10 a.m. and will be followed by an hour of "Saved by the Bell," a sitcom aimed a pre-teens and young teen-agers. Similar programming will be developed for the 11 to noon hour aimed at satisfying the requirements put on local affiliates by the federal Children's Television Act, which requires a certain amount of time aimed at the 6- to 14-year-old audience.
No anchors or other details have been announced for "Today," which currently has a 90-minute version on Sundays with Garrick Utley and Mary Alice Williams in addition to its Monday to Friday two-hour shows.