Three That Were Made For TV

Reporting : Writings from The New Yorker (Hardcover) by David Remnick
This week, John Leonard reviews three new made-for-television movies: Missing Pieces (CBS), Two of Us (VH1), and Mary and Rhoda (ABC).
An excess of miniseries sweeps starts next week. But before we are bullied into thinking that they must be important because they're so much buzzed about, let me recommend three TV movies that have been unfairly dumped on by the critics because they're modest. They don't poke a stick in anybody's eye.
  • In Missing Pieces Sunday on CBS, James Coburn leaves his Colorado ranch for Mexico to bring back the body of his son, Paul Kersey (an artist who apparently committed suicide), except that in Mexico everybody seems to be lying to him, especially Lisa Zane.

    And the police aren't interested in a hit-and-run incident, a missing passport, a mysterious key and the odd fact that most of the paintings in Kersey's studio are of Coburn.

    Adapted from Ron Hansen's fine novel Atticus, the mystery in Missing Pieces is not really about who did what to whom, but how fathers and sons have to give each other as many second chances as they need to get it right.

  • Mary & Rhoda on ABC is a package of mothers, daughters and nostalgia. Mary Tyler Moore, who gave up TV news to be a better mother, is now a sixtysomething congressman's widow. Valerie Harper, divorced from someone French and awful, is back from a tour of world religions.
    Reviews by CBS News Sunday Morning Critic John Leonard
    They're both in New York to be near their daughters, standup comic Joie Lenz and Columbia premed student Marisa Ryan. Of course, they meet on the street - and move in together - and find jobs, in spite of their invisibility as older women.

    Never mind nitpicks. We love them as much in New York as we did in Minneapolis, where they killed Chuckles the Clown.

  • Finally, Two of Us on VH1 imagines a New York reunion one Saturday in 1976 of Paul McCartney, played by Aidan Quinn, and John Lennon, played by Jared Harris.

    They push each other's buttons.

    They tiptoe around the Yoko topic.

    They even go for a walk in Central Park.

    But mostly, in John's Dakota apartment, they get high with a little help from their friends, and talk about everything from Walt Whitman and Stevie Wonder to childhood and their dead fathers.

    And when they sit down to sing at John's famous white piano, it's terrific.

Fathers and sons, Mary and Rhoda, Paul and John - all of them give us a break. Even before we're 64, don't we need to walk down Penny Lane, through Strawberry Fields, to see Lucy in the sky with diamonds and hear a Lonely Hearts Club Band?

Hey Jude, and Lady Madonna, and Lovely ita, Meter Maid: You say you want a revolution, but sometimes we just want to hold your hand.