(Sat. (7), 9-11 p.m., KCBS) Filmed in Merritt Island, Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach, Fla., by MTM Enterprises and ZM Prods. Executive producers, Gil Grant, Paris Qualles, Kary Antholis, George Zaloom, Les Mayfield; producer, David Blake Hartley; director, Ian Toynton; writer, Qualles; camera, Jim Chressanthis; editor, Phil Neel; production designer, Okowita; art director, Richard Fojo; sound, Mark Weber; music, John Debney; costume designer, Beverly Safier; casting, Shana Landsburg; tech consultants, Buzz Aldrin, Bruce Melnick. Cast: Corbin Bernsen, Adam Baldwin, Cameron Bancroft, Bobby Hosea, David Kelsea, Katie Mitchell, Bobbie Phillips, Chad Willett, Tyra Ferrell, Whitman Mayo, Robin O’Dell, Sam Anderson, Michael Hartson, Michael Pniewski, Tom Nowicki, Jim Coleman, Melissa Kolaks, William Childers, Nancy Duerr, Jim Grimshaw, Michael Costello, Steve Raulerson, Miki McKeever, Greg Davis, Kirsten Storms, Chad Reeves, Tom Kouchalakos, Suzanne Arthur, Paul Kiernan, Pete Penuel, Brett Rice, Bill Cordell, Nancy Barber, Janis Beason, Phillip Martinez, John Wade. Launched into 190 marts, this weekly syndie space series kicks off with a two-hour vidpic stuck occasionally on the earth, but the pilot soars when it hits the wild blue yonder.
Corbin Bernsen and Adam Baldwin get top mileage out of their roles, and Paris Qualles’ script offers good characters, suspense and a potentially explosive mission. Opener is a go. Qualles and astute director Ian Toynton have painlessly delineated the astronauts and the ANCANS (astronaut candidates) by looking briefly into each one’s (well, almost) personal life. Bernsen’s stern vet Cmdr. Bull Eckert, remembering back to early NASA days, neglects his wife and kids; Col. Jack Riles (Baldwin) has piloted shuttle missions and doesn’t like being challenged; Marine Reggie Warren (Bobby Hosea) has never been sent on a mission in seven years; and courageous specialist Tamara St. James (Tyra Ferrell) is quietly confident. Of the four ANCANS, Zeke Beaumont (Cameron Bancroft) has a run-in with Riles and a set-to with his civvie brother Curt (Michael Hartson), but still takes on a mighty challenge. Navy pilot Barbara De Santos (Bobbie Phillips) sets her own pace; D.B. Woods (David Kelsey) is the outfit’s genius; and elementary teacher Peter Engel (Chad Willett) seems out of the program because he flunks a fighter plane test. Qualles creates mostly reasonable character backgrounds. The chief thrust and interest in the telefilm involve an on-the-loose Russian nuclear unit headed for the Eastern seaboard. A crew has to head it off with speed and initiative. The storyline conspicuously picks up.
Despite heavy audience exposure to TV and pic docudramas, “The Cape” proves that there are still solid dramatic devices in a fictional crew marching the long march toward the shuttle, settling into their places, preparing for the liftoff and heading out. With Buzz Aldrin and Bruce Melnick as tech consultants, the production generally looks authentic (despite a couple of weightlessness misses). Cooperation and tech support of NASA helps, and the meller’s suspense builds well. Acting throughout is a plus, and the camerawork by Jim Chressanthis , the editing by Phil Neel are imaginative. Okowita’s production designs are resourceful, and Beverly Safier’s costumes are fine. Series kicks off Sept. 20 in N.Y., airing Fridays, 9-10 p.m. on WOR; in L.A., it rolls out incredibly at 4 -5 p.m. on Sundays, starting Sept. 22. What a time to blast off. Tony Scott