Curious about the plight of an intensely dysfunctional family? Then tune in 1993’s “Family Pictures,” a two-part epic based on Sue Miller’s novel, which airs on ABC Sunday and Monday at 9.
“Pictures” traces the emotionally racked Eberlin family of Seattle from the 1950s to the late 1970s. In the ‘50s, Lainey (Anjelica Huston) and David Eberlin (Sam Neill) discover that their third child Randall is autistic.
David, a psychiatrist, wants to send Randall off to a sanitarium where he would receive round-the-clock care. Lainey pooh-poohs his plan for Randall (as well as the psychiatric theories of the day that claimed autism was caused by a mother’s rejection of her child). She demands that her son remain at home.
And so begin the Eberlin family problems and a string of well-acted, insightfully written and revealing family-in-turmoil scenes. David not only resents Lainey’s refusal to follow his professional advice, but he fumes at her desire to have more children.
After three more kids are born (they are dubbed “the three last straws”), David and offspring soon are left to fend for themselves as Lainey devotes her energies to curing Randall.
The movie emerges into an honest portrayal of universal sibling rivalries and child-parent conflicts. Much of the focus is on how two of the middle children, Nina (Kyra Sedgwick) and Mack (Dermot Mulroney) search for identities in the midst of familial warfare.
Mack and Nina’s coming-of-age struggles and Lainey and David’s marital ups-and-downs span a fascinating time period in America, from the tumultuous ‘60s to the excesses of the ‘70s. It’s a family portrait with substance most of us can relate to.
“Heart and Souls” (1993), NBC tonight at 9: Hollywood has produced some big hits based on ghosts - “Topper,” “Ghost” and even “Casper.” Too bad “Heart and Souls” is not one of them
The movie does have an imaginative plot, however, as Charles Grodin, Kyra Sedgwick, Alfre Woodard and Tom Sizemore portray ghosts and guardian angels assigned to watch over a newborn named Thomas.
Eventually, Thomas (played as an adult by Robert Downey Jr.) grows up and has his life upended by the spirits - now capable of taking over his body in brief, humorous spurts. The movie’s twist is that as time on Earth begins to wane for the four souls, Thomas must step in to help them fulfill their heavenly missions.
“Early Edition,” CBS tonight at 9: Fyvush Finkel brightened this lackluster series as Chuck’s (Fisher Stevens) Uncle Phil, who threatens to get even with the city’s mayor after a sanitation truck kills his beloved dog. Repeat.
“TV’s All-Time No. 1’s,” FOX Sunday at 7: Shelley Long (“Cheers”) hosts this repeat hour saluting highest-rated episodes. You’ll see clips from the most-watched dramas, police shows and science-fiction series.
“The Simpsons,” FOX Sunday at 8: Rodney Dangerfield provides the voice for Mr. Burns’ illegitimate son, who gets no respect, in this hilarious repeat involving the kidnapping of Burns.
“3rd Rock From the Sun,” NBC Sunday at 8: A rollicking good time is to be had in this repeat in which the aliens become upset over negative attitudes toward extraterrestrials.
George Takei (“Star Trek”) joins in the antics when Dick, Sally and crew confront him at a sci-fi convention in Ohio. Harry steals the show with an equal-rights plea for aliens.
“The X-Files,” FOX Sunday at 9: Back for another run is this episode featuring Charles Nelson Reilly. He figures into a mystery regarding the alleged abduction of a two teenagers.
“The Ultimate Lie” (1996), NBC Sunday at 9: The story has the kind of sleazy premise that may send you scrambling for the remote control. A law-school dean (Michael Murphy) who leads a secret sex life discovers that his troublesome daughter (Kristin Davis) has a secret of her own: She’s a prostitute.
This would be pretty unsavory stuff if not for a standout performance by Blair Brown as a betrayed wife and shocked mother. Repeat.
“Nick News Special Edition: Are We Alone?,” NICK Sunday at 8:30: Linda Ellerbee serves up a delectable half-hour on a favorite topic in America: outer space exploration. She’ll have photos from the Pathfinder Mars mission; interviews with astronaut Sally Ride and NASA administrator Daniel Goldin; and a look at some of Pathfinder’s equipment, including an outer space dune buggy.
“Aliens: Are We Alone?,” DSC Sunday at 9: The science documentary channel jumps into the outer space fray with segments on NASA’s search for extraterrestrials.
“The Cable Guy” (1996), HBO tonight at 9: This tasteless movie about a psychotic cable installer (Jim Carrey) nearly ruined Carrey’s career. The movie lacks charm and personality as Carrey stalks a customer (Matthew Broderick). It might be too violent for younger folks.
“Awakenings” (1990), CBS Sunday at 9: Affecting drama, directed by Penny Marshall, serves up Robin Williams playing against type. He’s a shy doctor who helps coma patients recover.
Robert De Niro is the scene-stealer in this tearjerker. He plays an awakened patient coping with life after a 30-year gap.
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