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A SOAPY SITUATION 'GOING HOME' GOES SLOW.

Byline: David Kronke TV Critic

``Going Home'' had me going nuts. Executive producer Beth Polson has taken a profoundly heartfelt incident from her own life and transformed it into sentimental twaddle. If the story seems slow at times, that's just because the characters have to wade through all that sap.

Sherry Stringfield (late of ``ER'') stars as Katherine, a successful book editor in New York - or, as this telefilm would have it, with a vaguely pejorative overtone, the Big City. Back in her modest Virginia hometown, her widowed father Charles (Jason Robards) is absentmindedly busting up cars, confusedly mailing off packages to his dead son and, in general, wasting away. Though she's only stopped in on the occasional holiday in the past and virtually missed her mother's demise, Katherine races home with grave concern.

This concern for kith and kin is met in stuffed-shirt New York with archly raised eyebrows. Katherine's boss just barely avoids twirling his handlebar mustache as he says, ``Publishing is a mercurial business. If this doesn't work out, it could hurt your future here.'' Her pompous boyfriend barely avoids tittering like an overcivilized twit as he announces, ``Oh, by the way, Placido Domingo's going to be at the Met next month - I'll get us box seats.'' By comparison, that corn-pone doctor (country singer Clint Black) - who apparently has but one patient, Charles, and deploys his own son as therapy for the old man - is starting to look pretty good. ``Going Home's'' contrast between big city and small town is so simplistic as to be risible.

This is the setup for more sudsy dramas than anyone'd care to imagine, including the 1998 theatrical release ``One True Thing,'' which at least had Meryl Streep on hand to keep things palatable. There's no such luck here. Robards played a similar role to much more devastating effect in the recent film ``Magnolia''; here, he's the Tickle Me Elmo of old coots.

Stringfield is strictly synthetic, though Ashley Crowe manages touches of earthiness as her sister, and Black is guilelessly unactorly - and, therefore, fairly credible - as the country doctor.

The facts

--The show: ``Going Home.''

--What: Sentimental tale of a woman torn between her profession and her family.

--The stars: Jason Robards, Sherry Stringfield, Clint Black, Ashley Crowe.

--Where: CBS (Channel 2).

--When: 9 tonight.

--Our rating: Two stars.

SHAKY TAKEOFF, 'NOWHERE TO LAND'

Just call ``Nowhere to Land'' ``Airport 2000.'' As the ``Airport'' film series' increasing propensity for the ludicrous helped spell the end of the disaster flick, ``Nowhere to Land's'' relative indifference to rendering the genre staples likewise demonstrates why it's just as well those films aren't made anymore.

Here, the disaster - and a puny one it is, too; it's as if the filmmakers are squeamish about killing people, which won't get them far in this business - is attributed to that old stand-by, the unhinged jilted husband with easy access to the military's most dangerous toxic gases. He rigs a bomb in a 747 heading from Sydney, Australia (where the film was shot), to Los Angeles, then informs the airline when the plane is hours from dry land and there's little anyone can do.

Screenwriter Matt Dorff and director Armand Mastroianni rather listlessly set up the dramatis personae for their little yarn: The ruggedly handsome, heroic pilot (Jack Wagner), his spunky co-pilot (Christine Elise), the basketball-loving munitions expert (Ernie Hudson), the useful yet expendable old guy (James B. Sikking) and sundry couples and whiny passengers, who all virtually drop out of sight as soon as the ``drama'' kicks in.

``Nowhere to Land'' offers few true pleasures. There's the vaguely amusing spectacle of Aussie actors struggling with American accents. There are luxuriant visuals of an airplane with - get this - comfortably wide aisles (you could get a marching band down these aisles!). And there are a few ostensibly tense moments as the slowest poison gas in the history of filmed entertainment seeps wheezingly through the plane during a comically staged evacuation. This gas is so slow that once the survivors escape, there's no effort to seal the plane even though there's allegedly enough to wipe out everyone from LAX to Oakland. But in movies like this, not only is there nowhere to land, there's no time to think.

The facts

--The show: "Nowhere to Land."

--What: Thriller, as such, about a 747 unwittingly carrying a toxic-gas payload.

--The stars: Jack Wagner, Ernie Hudson, Christine Elise.

--Where: TBS.

--When: 7 tonight and March 21 and 25.

--Our rating: Two stars.

- D.K.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1) Jason Robards, left, Sherry Stringfield, Clint Black and Ashley Crowe star in in ``Going Home,'' a CBS made-for-TV movie.

(2) Christine Elise, Jack Wagner, center, and James B. Sikking star in TBS' movie about a doomed plane, ``Nowhere to Land.'
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Television Program Review
Date:Mar 12, 2000
Words:796
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