‘Good Fences’

The year of telepics

From the treelined streets of Greenwich, Conn., to a desolate Auschwitz concentration camp, Showtime’s original pictures go global, entering territory most mainstream feature films avoid.

In “Good Fences,” Danny Glover (Tom) and Whoopi Goldberg (Mabel) play a 1970s husband and wife. A lawyer whose career takes off after he successfully defends a white man who set black vagrants on fire, Tom moves his family to Waspy Greenwich.

Problems arise when an African-American woman moves in next door and wants to buy another house on the street, causing a stir among the white neighbors. Tom, afraid of being blamed for the “black invasion,” burns her house down.

“Everyone thinks they want the bigger house in a nicer neighborhood with all the trappings of wealth and success,” says Gary Levine, Showtime exec VP of original programming. “It’s an interesting cautionary tale for all of us.”

Christine Lahti not only lost weight and went sans makeup to play Holocaust survivor Dr. Gisella Perl in “Out of the Ashes,” she jumped at the chance to do so. At Auschwitz, Perl nursed fellow prisoners and secretly performed abortions for women.

Perl arrives in New York to start a practice, then flashes back to the horrors of Auschwitz as she recounts her experiences to the immigration board trying to determine if she was a Nazi sympathizer.

Tennessee Williams’ “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” deals with the painful self-awareness of aging when the career of actress Karen Stone (Helen Mirren) comes to an end and her husband dies.

She contacts the Contessa (Anne Bancroft), who makes a living matching rich and lonely American women with young Italian hunks. Stone goes on a few dates, which end with the man asking for money for a relative in need. But she’s hooked on Paolo (Olivier Martinez), one of the Contessa’s prized escorts. At first the two are inseparable but part ways after a young Hollywood starlet visits.

“Soldier’s Girl” is the real-life story of Barry Winchell (Troy Garity), who was beaten to death by a fellow soldier in 1999 because of his relationship with a transgendered woman, Calpernia Addams (Lee Pace).

“It’s a brutally honest look at don’t ask, don’t tell and the whole question of tolerance of homosexuality in the military,” Levine says.