'Angel Falls': a steam-powered soap

TELEVISION PREVIEW

August 26, 1993|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

On the map of prime-time soap opera, "Angel Falls" is somewhere between "Knots Landing" and "Twin Peaks." That means there's lots of sex, and it almost makes sense.

Sex in motel rooms, in bedrooms, in bunkhouses, in cemeteries. And when folks in "Angel Falls" aren't having sex, they're thinking or talking about sex. Tonight's hour is filled with long looks of desire and short, breathless conversations that go like this:

He: I still love ya, Rae, I never stopped.

She: Don't, Eli, don't.

He: I think about ya every night. When I'm out in the hayfields or watchin' the sun set. Hell, even when I'm makin' love to my wife, I'm thinkin' of you.

She: God, it's like we've never been apart, Eli. If we start, we'll never be able to stop.

He: I don't care any more. I just don't care.

At which point, she climbs into his arms, locking her legs around his waist, while he's standing up. You can probably figure out the rest for yourself.

She is Rae Dawn Snow, as played by Chelsea Field, a thirtysomething single mom who returns to her hometown after her father's death to take over the pool hall he left her in the center of Angel Falls, Mont. She's hot, hot, hot.

He is Eli Harrison, as played by Brian Kerwin, stud rancher and husband of the sultry Genna Harrison, as played by Kim Cattrall. Genna, too, is hot, hot, hot. But her relationship with Eli is cold, cold, cold. As Diana said of Charles, he scorns her.

Rae Dawn and Eli were once young lovers and they are now at the center of things in Angel Falls. One of those things includes what promises to be a very tortured and steamy teen relationship between Eli's daughter, Molly (Cassidy Rae), a cheerleader, and Rae Dawn's son, Sonny (Jeremy London), a basketball star with a motorcycle and tons of teen angst. London played a similar role in "I'll Fly Away."

There are other relationships in Angel Falls that count. There's the troubled marriage of Luke and Hadley Larson. Luke, the high school basketball coach, is played by James Brolin (yes, the guy from "Marcus Welby, M.D."). Hadley is played by Peggy Lipton, last seen as Norma Jennings in "Twin Peaks."

There's also a certain something (I think it's called lust) going on between Genna and Eli's new hired man, Toby Riopelle (Robert Rusler). Toby is always shirtless, flashing those tattoos at Genna, who starts out scorning him. But, as serious soap opera fans know, there's only a consonant's difference between scorning and scoring.

I'm not a fan of prime-time soaps, but I have to admit this one has a number of things going for it.

It's set in the present, but the Montana setting gives it a western or frontier feel at a time when viewers seem interested again in the frontier. It's got three generations (Jean Simmons, as Luke's mom, represents the third), which gives it broad demographic potential.

The echoes of both "Knots Landing" and "Twin Peaks" are intentional. CBS is scheduling the show at 10 Thursday nights in the old "Knots" spot. Lipton, the teen lovers on motorcycles, opening and closing shots of the mountains and forest, a soundtrack dominated by electric guitar are all obvious attempts to catch some of the edge that 'Twin Peaks" had.

At its core, "Angel Falls" is closer to "Knots Landing" than it is "Twin Peaks." That means it's more mainstream melodrama and less hip quirkiness. And that also means, despite a tough time period, it might just find an audience.

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