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‘Oldest Widow’ May Leave Viewers Feeling Depressed


For a high dose of turn-of-the-century Southern morals and culture, you can once again check out CBS’ two-part “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All” (1994), Sunday and Tuesday at 9.

The epic tale traces a traditional woman’s struggle for survival during a time when women’s needs and rights were ignored. The story, based on Allan Gurganus’ novel, starts off in the present day when Lucy Marsden (Anne Bancroft), the oldest living Confederate widow, recalls her long life of pain and agony.

Through flashbacks (occurring on the eve of Marsden’s 100th birthday), the widow remembers how as a teenager (played in her younger years by Diane Lane) she married a troubled 50-year-old Civil War veteran, Capt. William Marsden (Donald Sutherland).

His nightmarish experiences as a soldier and Lucy’s friendship with the family maid (Cicely Tyson) are the backbone of this slice-of-life historical drama.

At times “Widow” moves as slow as a breeze on a sweltering summer day in Georgia. It’s depressing and has few uplifting moments.

The colorful characters, played by Tyson, Gwen Verdon and E.G. Marshall, help keep your attention. The four hours provide a glimpse at history that is rarely seen on the small screen.


“Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper,” ABC tonight at 8:30: This show just might hold the record for the longest period between a series cliffhanger and its resolution. When we last saw the characters in this high school sitcom - more than 12 months ago - basketball coach Mr. Cooper (Mark Curry) had asked Vanessa (Holly Robinson Peete) to marry him. Viewers were left waiting for an answer.

This weekend it is all resolved. She says: “Yes.”

The laughs center around Cooper’s efforts to find a ring that appeals to Vanessa’s designer tastes and stays within reach of his coach’s salary.

“Jack Reed: A Killer Amongst Us” (1996), NBC tonight at 9: In the fourth in the series about America’s most honest, forthright and ethical Illinois deputy sheriff, Jack Reed (Brian Dennehy) takes viewers to the front lines of a chilling investigation into a drive-by shooting and cop killing. Repeat.

“The Simpsons,” FOX Sunday at 8: Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce, who play TV’s beloved Crane brothers on “Frasier,” teamed up to lend their voices as Sideshow Bob (Grammer) and his brother Cecil (Pierce). They are a laugh a minute as they reunite and revive an old sibling feud.

“Someone Else’s Child” (1994), ABC Sunday at 9: This repeat tale does what TV does all too often: It serves up a poor-me, everyone’s-against-me tale starring a soap diva. In this case, it’s Lisa Hartman Black who plays the victim.

She portrays an uneducated South Carolina white woman named Cory Maddox, whose baby is switched at birth.

After the baby mix-up, the movie fast-forwards about seven years to the time Maddox is abandoned by her husband. A paternity test reveals the child she brought home is half black.

Enter racist townspeople, the evil adoptive parents of Maddox’s biological child, bitter custody battles and a truckload of self-pity.

If you sit through this one, you may feel sorry for yourself.

Cable Calls

“Eraser” (1996), HBO tonight at 10: Arnold Schwarzenegger plays bodyguard to Vanessa Williams in this on-the-go actioner that is all violence and no story. It’s easy to erase this one from your memory.

“Living in Peril” (1997), TMC tonight at 9: This by-the-numbers thriller serves up Rob Lowe and James Belushi as architect and client. Lowe’s character is being terrorized, and it doesn’t take long to figure out who’s the victimizer.

My recommendation: You can live without this architect’s peril.

“LeAnn Rimes in Concert,” DISN Sunday at 7: The young superstar struts her stuff at Walt Disney World. Included are interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of the 14-year-old.

“Jack London’s ‘The Call of the Wild”’ (1997), FAM Sunday at 9: This adaptation of Jack London’s 1903 adventure classic is true to the original rough-and-ready nature story. The star is a dog named Buck who yearns to be free.

Richard Dreyfuss narrates, and Rutger Hauer befriends Buck.

“Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist,” COM Sunday at 10: The sardonic doctor sets up office hours for a fourth season. In the opener, his lazy son Ben decides to write a book.

“La Femme Nikita,” USA Sunday at 10: The action-spy show delivers up a first-run episode about a new recruit (Felicity Waterman) who makes Nikita suspicious.

Movie Marquee

“Honeymoon in Vegas” (1992) NBC Sunday at 9: The comedy version of “Indecent Proposal” stars Nicolas Cage as the boyfriend who loses a bet with a wise guy (James Caan).

The end result is that Cage’s fiancee (Sarah Jessica Parker) must spend the weekend with the winner.

Frankly, the jokes aren’t any funnier than what you would see in a TV sitcom.

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