'Boys' has charm despite well-worn plot

February 29, 1992|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

Call this the "Matlock"/"Murder She Wrote" school of programming. CBS premieres a new series tonight that seems squarely targeted at the loyal older viewers who have made both those other shows successful (on NBC and CBS, respectively).

"The Boys of Twilight," making its debut at 10 p.m. (on WBAL, Channel 11), could carry the subtitle "Old Codgers at Work," for its stars, veterans Richard Farnsworth and Wilford Brimley, have made careers of playing cantankerous old characters. Trouper Louise Fletcher is in it, too.

And while the formula seems as achingly familiar as Brimley's oatmeal ads, it has some charm.

The two play the law enforcement department -- sheriff and deputy, respectively -- of a small Utah town that has suddenly begun to grow with the arrival of a ski resort. (The show is filmed in Park City, Utah, although it is not named.)

We learn something of the resulting tensions when an upscale resident (Kate Jackson, in a cameo) complains about having to watch Deputy Bill (Brimley) practice tai-chi in his yard, wearing nothing but a union suit.

Modern times also bring problems in tonight's premiere -- a young ski instructor at the resort turns up dead, slowly poisoned.

"I don't know her. I don't know her people, or how she came to be here. That's sad. I guess that's progress," mourns Sheriff Cody (Farnsworth), remembering the days of small town simplicity.

OK, that's really a lot of hooey. So are many of the western cliches sprinkled throughout as the boys investigate the case.

A new deputy (Ben Browder), fresh from washing out of law enforcement school (he faints at the sound of gunfire), adds some generational tension to the plot mix. And Cody's wife, Genelva (Fletcher), offers some gentle wisdom when the menfolk get stumped.

The ending is pretty preposterous, with both lawmen mounted on horses hunting down the bad guy.

But there are some nice touches, too, which make "Boys of Twilight" worth at least a look for a week or two.

For instance, Deputy Bill's caution to the sheriff about the dangers of a computer is a hoot. His use of an EKG slip as phony evidence is cute, the relationship between Cody and Genelva is just plain sweet, and the show avoids the mistake of completely rejecting the advantages of the present day.

E9 The boys, after all, drive around in a Jeep Cherokee.

*

THE RADIO WORLD -- Radio station WJHU-FM (88.1) tomorrow launches a striking live, two-way talk show in cooperation with the BBC World Service.

"It's Your World: Calling Eastern Europe," can be heard at 9 a.m. for the next five Sundays, and the first guest of BBC host Sheena McDonald is Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa of Poland.

0$ Simultaneous English translation

is planned. Domestic airwaves across Eastern Europe also plan to carry the program, including Radio Russia.

Baltimore listeners who want to ask a question should call thshow's phone number -- 011-44-71-379- 7444 -- at 7 a.m. each Sunday to request to participate. If the producers can accommodate the question, the listener will be called back just before or during the program.

Listeners may also send written questions for consideration to: "It's Your World, BBC World Service, Room 637 SE, Bush House, London WC2B 4PH.

Future guests include: March 8, President Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia; March 15, President Ion Illiescu of Romania; March 22, President Vytavtas Landsbergis of Lithuania and March 29, Prime Minister Jozsef Antall of Hungary.

Also, on WJHU tomorrow at 6 p.m., listeners can hear via National Public Radio the pre-Maryland presidential primary debate of the Democratic candidates, which can also be seen at that hour on Maryland Public Television stations.

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