Sweeps Week's Guilty Pleasure

This week CBS News Sunday Morning Critic John Leonard reviews three network specials for the November sweeps.
The sweeps have started, and rather than stagger escapisms, the networks actually butt their billygoat heads. Nor are they competing only with each other but also against public television, where Ken Burns, in Not for Ourselves Alone, will tell us the story of women's suffrage. If I were a serious person, I'd be in Seneca Falls. But let's butter some pop-culture instead.

On ABC, the brat is back. In a Disney remake of the Broadway musical Annie, Alicia Morton plays the singing orphan, without ringlets.

John Leonard
Kathy Bates plays Ms. Hannigan more like Dickens and less like Halloween, as she was in the tedious movie. Alan Cummings is a terrific Rooster. Kristin Chenowith is his platinum-plated gun moll. Victor Garber is the first Daddy who can sing, which may be why Audra MacDonald has a crush on him. The highlight is "Easy Street."

On the one hand, we have to hear "Tomorrow." On the other, this Annie is 38 minutes shorter than the Hollywood version. Whereas, over at NBC, they spend four hours with the Little People.

Leprechauns, a West Side Story in short pants, will sorely test your whimsy. Randy Quaid is trying to buy up rural Ireland for vacationing Americans. Orla Brady is the wench he falls for.

TheyÂ're stuck in the middle of a special-effects war between the leprechauns, led by Colm Meany, and the fairies, led by Roger Daltry. Which is a good excuse to go over head and under water, with Whoopi Goldberg as the grand banshee — and lots of gratuitous step dancing.

On the one hand, leprechauns are better than aliens. On the other, thereÂ's already too much step dancing every public television pledge week.

On CBS, the dancing is dirtier. CBS will Shake, Rattle & Roll.

Not only does Bonnie Somerville fall in love in 1955 with heartthrob guitarist Brad Hawkins, but she also writes songs for his band, till Brad sells out for teen idoldom, Dana Delany and bubblegum music. Not only does BonnieÂ's best friend Samaria Graham go to Barnard and sing doo-wop, but she also registers black voters in the Jim Crow South.

Contemporary artists play rock legends color>

Reviews by CBS News Sunday Mornin Critic John Leonard
The most fun in Shake, Rattle & Roll is spotting the contemporary recording artists who play rock legends, like Little Richard, Fats Domino and Elvis, while listening to new songs trying to sound old, by the likes of Bob Dylan and Carole King. (Among these, my favorite is KingÂ's "Wall Around My Heart." But the Beatles were coming, and Mississippi and Vietnam.

For me, personally, it wasnÂ't Elvis who ended the Ike snooze; it was GinsbergÂ's "Howl." Still, our parents were probably right: Some chairs were going to get broken and some hearts.

By now it is a commonplace of cultural criticism that Chuck Berry was transgressive. That Jim Morrison, running to fat, and demons in the desert were the satanic flip sides of "La Bamba." That Janis and Jimi died for our sins, the Sex Pistols killed the Kennedys, and Springsteen is a border intellectual.

But we are lovingly reminded in Shake, Rattle and Roll of a time when rock music opened the locked doors of the attic, the basement and the bedroom, and let a sexy sun shine in.

Written by John Leonard
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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