×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Common Ground

Showtime network continues its commitment to projects that would annoy the heck out of conservative radio and TV yakker Dr. Laura Schlessinger with a nicely crafted trio of stories about the changing small-town gay experience in America over the past five decades. Although it walks on the preachy side of the street at times, pic dramatizes important points about the rights of gays and lesbians, and features a solid cast.

With:
Ira - Edward Asner Father Leon - Beau Bridges Don - Harvey Fierstein Principal Dawson - Brian Kerwin Mrs. Nelson - Margot Kidder Coach Davis - Dan Lauria Amos - James LeGros Dorothy Nelson - Brittany Murphy Billy Temple - Jason Priestley Lt. McPherson - Mimi Rogers Janet - Helen Shaver Johnny Burroughs - Eric Stoltz Toby Anderson - Jonathan Taylor Thomas Gil Roberts - Steven Weber

Showtime network continues its commitment to projects that would annoy the heck out of conservative radio and TV yakker Dr. Laura Schlessinger with a nicely crafted trio of stories about the changing small-town gay experience in America over the past five decades. Although it walks on the preachy side of the street at times, pic dramatizes important points about the rights of gays and lesbians, and features a solid cast, of which former sitcom stars Steven Weber (“Wings”) and Jonathan Taylor Thomas (“Home Improvement”) emerge as standouts.

Exec producers A. D. Oppenheim and thesp Brian Kerwin (“Beggars and Choosers”) brought three top gay American playwrights — Paula Vogel, Terrence McNally, and Harvey Fierstein — to collaborate on the story. The result is a noble, yet uneven chronicle of the changing mores of the residents of a small Connecticut town regarding homosexuality.

The first chapter, “A Friend of Dorothy,” takes place in 1954 and stars Brittany Murphy as Dorothy, a young woman who is discharged from the Navy after being caught in a raid at a gay bar. Vogel’s script perfectly captures the paranoid mood of the ’50s and is strongest when it depicts Dorothy’s demonization by the prejudiced townspeople. Among the supporting players, Helen Shaver (as a friendly lesbian coffee shop owner) offers the perfect antidote to Margot Kidder’s histrionic turn as Dorothy’s unforgiving mom. “Beverly Hills, 90210’s” Jason Priestley is also memorable as a happy-go-lucky Navy friend, who teaches Dorothy about the gay subculture.

The pic’s strongest part is McNally’s segment, “Mr. Roberts,” about a closeted 1970s era high school teacher (Weber), who comes to terms with his own sexuality after his prized gay student (Thomas) is victimized by his peers. Poignant and well-acted, this chapter resonates strongly because it underlines how a society’s push for conformity leads to the internalized self-hatred of many homosexuals. Weber and Thomas are in fine form, and their scenes together are highly emotional, without becoming maudlin.

The title of Fierstein’s segment, “Andy & Amos,” is a good indicator of how slight and cutesy the closing segment turns out to be. Set in the year 2000, it’s all about an upper-class double-income white gay couple’s marriage ceremony, and how one of the lovebirds (James LoGros) gets the wedding-day jitters. LoGros and Ed Asner, who plays the confused groom’s father, have a few nice moments together, but Fierstein’s jokes are painfully dated. There are funnier lines in five minutes of any episode of “Will and Grace” than in this whole vignette — and the points made by the scribe will be revolutionary only to those who have been living in a bomb shelter for the past 40 years.

Helmer Donna Deitch (“Desert Hearts”) makes some inspired decisions about presenting each time period, and has found in Eric Stoltz a perfect witness to the three stories and a smooth way of unifying the chapters. Tech credits, especially Jacek Laskus’ evocative lensing, are excellent.

Fortunately, Showtime is not ghettoizing the telepic in a “Gay Pride Month Special Programming” block the way PBS does in May. At a time when initiatives prohibiting gay marriages, such as California’s Prop. 22, are hot-button issues in local elections, “Common Ground” does an effective job of remembering past milestones in gay rights and recognizing the arduous battles ahead. And please, can somebody messenger a tape to Dr. Laura?

Common Ground

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

Production: Filmed in Toronto by Showtime; Executive producers, A.D. Oppenheim and Brian Kerwin; director, Donna Deitch; "A Friend of Dorothy," written by Paula Vogel; "Mr. Roberts," written by Terrence McNally; "Andy & Amos," written by Harvey Fierstein.

Crew: Director of photography, Jacek Laskus; line producer, Frank Siracusa; production designer, Doug McCullough; art director, Peter Emmink; casting director, Rene Rousselot; set decorator, Garth Brunt. Running time: 120 MIN.

Cast: Ira - Edward Asner Father Leon - Beau Bridges Don - Harvey Fierstein Principal Dawson - Brian Kerwin Mrs. Nelson - Margot Kidder Coach Davis - Dan Lauria Amos - James LeGros Dorothy Nelson - Brittany Murphy Billy Temple - Jason Priestley Lt. McPherson - Mimi Rogers Janet - Helen Shaver Johnny Burroughs - Eric Stoltz Toby Anderson - Jonathan Taylor Thomas Gil Roberts - Steven WeberWith: Joanne Vannicola, Andrew Arlie.

More TV

  • Televisa Sets Development Pact With Mexico's

    Televisa Sets Development Pact With Mexico's Endemol Shine Boomdog (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexico’s Televisa and Endemol Shine have inked a new pact for content development, cementing a long-standing relationship of 17 years. Mexico City-based Endemol Shine Boomdog, run by CEO Alejandro Rincon, and Televisa Studios will co-produce a slew of original scripted and unscripted series for the Hispanic markets of Mexico, the U.S. and the rest of [...]

  • Tamron Hall

    NATPE Briefs: Tamron Hall Adds Stations, HBO Grabs 'Post,' Grammys Set Sales

    The new Disney-distributed talk show fronted by Tamron Hall has reached the 70% national clearance threshold now that stations from Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tribune Broadcasting, Cox and Meredith have signed on for the topical talker. Hall, the former “Today” anchor, is making the rounds at NATPE on Tuesday in preparation for the show’s fall launch. [...]

  • Super Bowl LI Tom Brady

    Marijuana Advertiser Sees Super Bowl Dreams Go Up in Smoke

    Here’s a lesson for the nation’s burgeoning medical-marijuana market: You may be growing, but you can’t bogart that Super Bowl commercial. Acreage Holdings, a company that works to make marijuana available to adults for medical and/or recreational use where legal, is hoping to spark a haze of publicity by noting CBS declined to run a [...]

  • Beta Sells Alex Pina’s Movistar +

    Beta Film Rolls Out Alex Pina, Esther Martinez Lobato’s ‘The Pier’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    MIAMI  — Clinching more deals on one of Mipcom’s highest-profile premieres, Beta Film has closed early major territory sales on Movistar + Original “El Embarcadero” (“The Pier”), Alex Pina and Esther Martínez-Lobato’s follow-up to Netflix phenomenon “La casa de papel” (“Money Heist”), identified by the streaming giant in its first-quarter results last April as its [...]

  • Blue Ant Locks Down International Deals

    NATPE: Blue Ant Locks Down International Deals for British ‘Prison’ Series

    The sales arm of Blue Ant has closed a raft of programming deals with international channels, including for British series “Prison,” as the NATPE market gets underway in Miami. Blue Ant International has sold “Prison,” the factual series about life inside a jail in Durham, England, to multiple territories. Germany’s WELT, Belgium’s VRT, Norway’s TV2, [...]

  • NBCU Cooks Up Brazil Deal for

    NATPE: NBCU Cooks Up Brazil Deal for ‘Top Chef’

    Brazilian network Record is adding “Top Chef” to its menu. The popular cooking competition format is on NBCUniversal’s Bravo in the U.S. where it is in its sixteenth season. The format deal with Record will take the number of international remakes of the show to 24. Recent deals include with ProSiebenSat.1 in Germany. NBCUniversal’s International [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content