It is the fall of 1946. The nation is just getting used to the idea that nylon stockings are plentiful and has rediscovered that there is actually an organization called the Republican party. Meanwhile, in a farcical turn away from their usually serious and oftentimes traumatic post-war adjustments, the denizens of “Homefront” Ohio are enduring the joys and sorrows of America’s rush to embrace the free enterprise system.
The laughs are few in this hit-and-miss episode centered around Cleveland Indians baseballer Jeff Metcalf’s (Kyle Chandler) ill-fated journey as a member of “The Traveling Lemo All-Stars,” but the series still deserves high marks for its well-defined characterizations and rich attention to detail.
All Metcalf wants to do is earn enough postseason money to keep the payments going on his car until spring training; but his reluctant participation as a member of the Lemo Tomato Juice all-star baseball team turns into the barnstorming-tour-from-hell.
Not only is this whistle-stop train tour ruled over by a pair of Gestapo-esque Lemo Tomato Juice representatives, Mr. Melon and Miss Wescott (deliciously played by Jack Dodson and Lela Ivey), but Metcalf must contend with the dual distractions provided by his ex-fiance Ginger (Tammy Lauren), onboard as the “Official Lemo Tomato Juice Girl,” and the conniving but resourceful British war bride, Caroline Hailey (Sammi Davis-Voss), who is on the same train, headed for a “quickie” divorce in Nevada.
Meanwhile, back home, black domestics Abe and Gloria Davis (Dick Anthony Williams and Hattie Winston) are finding it more and more difficult to hide their entrepreneurial venture as restaurant owners from their stuffy employers Mike and Ruth Sloan (Ken Jenkins and Mimi Kennedy); and the recently married Anne Metcalf (Wendy Philips) and Al Kahn (John Slattery) are desperately trying to keep enquiring townsfolk from guessing the true age of their prenuptially conceived son.
The real action, however, is back on the train. As the soon-to-be-divorced Caroline begins to focus on Metcalf as her next potential meal ticket, Ginger is being aggressively courted by Metcalf’s rival all-star, Arhtu Schillhab (Brian McNamara). All parties are attempting to avoid the ever-vigilant Lemo Tomato Juice overseers.
Unfortunately, the nonchalant pace of these sleeping-berth shenanigans never reaches the comedic heights intended. Kyle Chandler and Tammy Lauren are totally likeable as the on-again-off-again lovers but neither the script nor the direction gives much opportunity for onscreen sparks to fly.
“Homefront” is still at its best when it deals with the almost revolutionary changes in American society that occurred during the years immediately following World War II. “The Traveling Lemo All-Stars” was a mildly amusing, but not very successful, trip out of town. Now its time to get back to the real problems at home.