Let this one be the 'Road' not taken

March 05, 1994|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

For viewers who like the tiniest drop of reality in their TV dramas, "The Road Home" is the road to skip on Saturday nights.

The new CBS series, starring Nancy Allen and Terence Knox, is more like a TV ad than a TV drama. It's full of pretty pictures, some very pretty clothes, a dream of a house, and two scenes of a family reunited that come right off a Hallmark greeting card.

The pilot opens with a happily married couple (Knox and Allen) and their kids driving to Allen's parents' house in North Carolina's Tidewater for a two-week summer vacation.

Allen's character will wax poetic at times about how much the house and the land mean to her. But in the opening scene, she and her family are lost and she's reading the Native American names of small towns on the map as if they were Greek to her. Come on, hon, it was only your life for 20 years . . . or so we're supposed to believe.

Grandad, played by Ed Flanders, owns shrimp boats. He complains a lot about how there aren't any shrimp out there any more. Nevertheless, near the end of the hour, he asks his son-in-law, a high school history teacher, to think about coming on board with him.

Why? So they can both look over the pile of plastic food containers, beer cans and dead fish that come up in his net? So there will be two people instead of one complaining about how there aren't any shrimp any more?

The family home, by the way, is a mansion and a half. Scarlett could come floating down the staircase at any moment, and there had to have been antebellum barbecues on the front porch. For Grandad to have afforded half this spread, he would need to have harvested diamonds, not shrimp.

If this series is supposed to comfort people who were forced by the economy to move back home with their parents, it's cold comfort. Not everyone grew up in a mansion that has six spare bedrooms at the ready, or a grandmother who would love to have another houseful of kids -- tantrums, raging adolescent hormones and all.

"The Road Home," which airs at 9 tonight on WBAL-TV (Channel 11), makes "Murder She Wrote," "Matlock" and other escapist fare for adults seem like docudrama. If there's any justice in the TV universe, "The Road Home" will be the first road kill of the second season.

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