×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Inherit the Wind

Hoping that lightning can strike twice, Showtime reunites acting powerhouses Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott for another remake of a classic (the first was "12 Angry Men"). In their updated script, Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith successfully incorporate the sharp dialogue from Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's original fictionalized account of the Scopes Monkey Trial, but at the expense of crucial character development.

With:
Henry Drummond - Jack Lemmon Matthew Harrison Brady - George C. Scott Sarah Brady - Piper Laurie E.K. Hornbeck - Beau Bridges Bertram Cates - Tom Everett Scott Judge Merle Coffey - John Cullum Rachel Brown - Kathryn Morris Reverend Jeremiah Brown - Lane Smith Tom Davenport - Brad Greenquist Mayor Carter - David Wells Jesse Dunlap - Peter Mackenzie

Hoping that lightning can strike twice, Showtime reunites acting powerhouses Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott for another remake of a classic (the first was “12 Angry Men”). In their updated script, Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith successfully incorporate the sharp dialogue from Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s original fictionalized account of the Scopes Monkey Trial, but at the expense of crucial character development. Meanwhile, director Daniel Petrie Sr. emphasizes courtroom pontification. Even seasoned pros like Lemmon and Scott, who have most of the best lines, come off as tired, grumpy old lawyers fighting over an obscure state law that prohibits teaching anything that “denies the divine creation of man as taught in the Bible.”

In 1925, Dayton, Tenn., was to Charles Darwin’s theories what Cincinnati was to the work of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the ’80s. The play, which documents the drawing of battle lines between science and religion, became director Stanley Kramer’s acclaimed 1960 movie starring Spencer Tracy and Fredric March. It was also the source for two previous TV productions, a “Hallmark Hall of Fame” effort in the 1965-66 season, and the Emmy-winning remake in 1988.

One could argue the wisdom of not fixing something that ain’t broke, but a story of traditionalists in conflict with a younger generation desperate to forge ahead into the future has potential to evoke new meaning on the eve of the new millennium.

Lemmon and Scott play old friends turned adversaries in “Inherit the Wind”: Lemmon is the Clarence Darrow character, Henry Drummond, the most celebrated defense attorney in the country and a devoted agnostic; in the William Jennings Bryant role is Scott as Matthew Harrison Brady, a former presidential nominee and Bible thumper.

Old friends, they are nevertheless ideological foes, with the liberal progressive going head to head with the Christian fundamentalist. Tom Everett Scott plays schoolteacher Bertram Cates, the man standing trial, whose role is the least significant in this version of the story.

The trial has become a dog and pony show complete with lemonade stands and caged monkeys on display. Beneath the deceptive Southern hospitality of the townsfolk brews fear and fanaticism. All too aware of the negative publicity the case may generate, the members of the city council are also keenly aware of the money-making possibilities.

Members of the press from across the nation are on hand, including E.K. Hornbeck (Beau Bridges in the H.L. Mencken role), a heckling Baltimore reporter who sees the trial as fuel for his cynical columns.

Petrie maintains much of the flavor of the stage play — to the detriment of the production. Every performance has been turned up several notches, as if to reach the back row seats of a crowded theater. By the time viewers reach the emotional climax, there’s little emotion left but relief.

As Brady’s long-suffering wife Sarah, Piper Laurie adds some softer, more personal moments, but most of the secondary perfs, including that of Bridges as the reporter and Lane Smith as a zealous preacher, are far too over the top to be effective.

Technical credits are standard fare.

Inherit the Wind

Showtime; Sat. May 29, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by MGM Worldwide Television in association with Showtime. Executive producers, Keith Addis, David Lane Seltzer; producer, Dennis Bishop; director, Daniel Petrie Sr.; writers, Nedrick Young, Harold Jacob Smith, based on the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.

Cast: Henry Drummond - Jack Lemmon Matthew Harrison Brady - George C. Scott Sarah Brady - Piper Laurie E.K. Hornbeck - Beau Bridges Bertram Cates - Tom Everett Scott Judge Merle Coffey - John Cullum Rachel Brown - Kathryn Morris Reverend Jeremiah Brown - Lane Smith Tom Davenport - Brad Greenquist Mayor Carter - David Wells Jesse Dunlap - Peter MackenzieCamera, James Bartle; editor, Paul LaMastra; music Laurence Rosenthal; casting, Mary Jo Slater, Tim Michals. Running time: 2 HOURS.

More TV

  • James Corden and Reggie Watts behind

    'The Late Late Show With James Corden' to Return to London for Third Year

    “The Late Late Show With James Corden” will return to London for a third year of specials from the host’s home city, broadcaster CBS announced Tuesday. The show will once again broadcast four special episodes from London’s historic Central Hall Westminster from June 17-20. Corden has already lined up an impressive roster of celebrity guests [...]

  • Bob Newhart Tim Conway Remembered

    Bob Newhart Remembers Tim Conway's Fearless Sense of Humor

    This is for Tim. This is so everybody will remember him. I can tell just by the mail I’ve gotten in the last couple of days that he had a huge fan base that loved him, and they wrote me because they knew I was close to him. Tim grew up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, [...]

  • RITA FERRO Disney Upfront 2019

    Broadcast Takes a Back Seat at the 2019 Upfronts

    This may be remembered as TV’s gap year — a transitional period between the way things used to be and the way they’re going to be. That was clearly evident last week at the network upfront presentations, the annual event where execs tout their new wares to advertisers. There was something different about this year’s [...]

  • Netflix Begins Production on Part-Yiddish Series

    Netflix Begins Production on Part-Yiddish Series 'Unorthodox'

    Netflix has announced the start of production on its Yiddish- and English-language German series “Unorthodox,” which is shooting in Berlin. The streaming giant is partnering with “Deutschland 83” creator Anna Winger on the original four-part miniseries which will be directed by “Deutschland 83” and “Deutschland 86” star Maria Schrader. Based on a novel by Deborah [...]

  • Stranger Things

    Coca-Cola Will Revive New Coke in Alliance With Netflix, 'Stranger Things'

    A rush of TV watchers to streaming video has prompted Coca-Cola to test an interesting pour. Coca-Cola will bring New Coke back to market for a brief time, all part of a partnership with Netflix, which has featured Coke in its cult-favorite series “Stranger Things.” The third season of the series, set in 1985, will [...]

  • Bernard Chevry Mipcom 1985

    Mip Founder Bernard Chevry Dies at 96

    Bernard Chevry, the founder of international TV markets MipTV and Mipcom, has died at 96. A statement from Reed Midem, the company Chevry created to organize such industry events, called the French exec a “visionary.” Created by Chevry in 1963, MipTV was the first international market for TV rights-trading, becoming the key annual event of [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    China's Huanxi Media Picks Up 'Snowpiercer' TV Show From ITV Studios

    China’s Huanxi Media Group Limited has bought the exclusive broadcasting right in the mainland for the forthcoming sci-fi TV series “Snowpiercer” from ITV Studios Global Entertainment. The show is based on South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho’s film of the same name and is set to debut on TBS in the U.S. in the spring of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content