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The Toronto Star
Tuesday, September 24, 1991

Another soap in post-war drag?

By Greg Quill
Toronto Star

David Jacobs has a theory about the abundance of
pseudo-historical drama on television in recent years.

The Wonder Years, China Beach, Young Riders, Paradise,
Tour Of Duty, and, this season, Brooklyn Bridge, the
forthcoming 1950s rural series I'll Fly Away, and his own
hour-long serial Homefront, set in the late 1940s and
premiering with a 90-minute special tonight at 930 on
Channel 11 and Buffalo's Channel 7, represent something of
a cultural phenomenon that recurs at the end of every
century, the veteran writer/producer and creator of Dallas
and Knots Landing said in a recent interview in Los Angeles.

"I don't want to be too academic about this, but the ends of
centuries are always reflective, and I don't think we have to
search for the reasons. People are gung ho to get into that
new century, but they also want to be sure they haven't left
anything valuable behind, so they look back at the last
minute. There's a reason the Renaissance peaked in 1494."

Which is not to imply that Homefront, a sprawling post-
World War II soap opera that features a talented and mostly
young cast, including Canada's Jessica Steen (Captain
Power), and some wonderful writing by the
husband-and-wife team Bernard Lechowick and Lynn
Marie Latham (Knots Landing), will inspire an artistic rebirth
in American television.

Its vividness, fidelity to the timbre of the times, and attention
to detail notwithstanding, Homefront is perhaps the last
dinosaur in the 60-minute prime-time serial chain that was
spawned in the late 1960s and of which Dallas, popular
culture's most potent expression of the greed and graft that
symbolized the destruction of America's dream of
civilization, is still the acknowledged king.

So, it is significant that Latham, Lechowick and Jacobs have
chosen to set their piece in the breathless seconds following
the end of World War II, in the fetid crucible in which
modern America and the modern Western world were
conceived. It was then that the course of history in the
remainder of the 20th century solidified, a time of
unbounded optimism and fear, of yearning, loss and healing.

All those elements are contained within the first episode of
Homefront, a Norman Rockwell- like Homecoming given
motion and dialogue, with more than one reference to the
darker currents exposed in the movie classic The Best Years
Of Our Lives.

A young GI (David Newsom), returning to his small Ohio
hometown to pick up where he left off with his high school
sweetheart (Alexandra Wilson), finds her affections have
turned to his younger brother (Kyle Chandler), who was too
young to go to war.

Another soldier (Harry O'Reilly) brings his beautiful and
bright British war bride (Sammi Davis-Voss) home, only to
be met at the train station by his pre-war fiancee (Tammy
Lauren) in a wedding dress.

A black infantryman and decorated hero (Sterling Macer,
Jr.) is hired, to the astonishment of the community and his
own parents (Dick Anthony Williams and Gloria Davis), by
a bigotted factory owner (Ken Jenkins), dispenser of the
town's only real employment opportunities, who's only trying
to improve his business relationship with the federal
government and has no real interest in civil or equal rights.

The factory boss also lays off women workers to make
room for returning men, much to the chagrin of the youngest
female (Steen) in a fatherless home. She mounts what
appears to be an embryonic feminist resistance movement in
order to keep her job.

And so it goes. The lives of babyboomers' parents revisited
in living color.

Whether Homefront is rampant patriotic revisionism or a
genuine longing for that innocent time when all the values and
standards that have made us what we are were still forming,
remains to be seen. What we have so far is a handsomely
mounted, well written and more than competently performed
reminiscence perceived, perhaps too fondly, from a
generation's distance.

We can hope, like Jacobs, that it's an earnest examination of
something of value, of the roots of a North American culture
that grew to dominate this century, then went to seed.

But I've seen too many great ideas hauled out to justify banal
television shows. My suspicion is that Homefront is just
another soap opera in post-war drag, another chunk of
viewer bait hurled into the void.

Bite at your own risk.

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