MOM KNOWS WHO`S BOSS - Chicago Tribune



The daughter wants to please her visiting mother.

''I want to give her the ultimate New York experience,'' daughter says.

''So spit on her skirt and charge her $12 for a cup of coffee,'' says a friend.

From such a standard if sassy sitcom start comes a surprisingly charming new comedy series.

''Room for Two,'' which premieres at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on ABC-Ch. 7, is a solidly constructed vehicle for the talents of Linda Lavin. In the show`s first two episodes, the actress drives it with acerbic style.

She, of course, is the mother the daughter is anxiously preparing to entertain during what is to be a short visit.

Recently widowed, Edie Kurland (Lavin) has journeyed from Dayton, Ohio, to Manhattan, where her daughter Jill (Patricia Heaton) is the producer of a morning talk show called ''Wake Up New York.''

Sitting in the audience, Edie guffaws her way through an on-air nouveau-fashion segment and winds up an impromptu spokeswoman for the female proletariat: ''We want our self-esteem high and our prices low.''

This so impresses the show`s executive producer that she offers Edie a regular slot as a daily commentator, a move that greatly alarms Jill, who tries to persuade Edie to go home and run the family store.

''That store was Dad`s life,'' says Jill.

''That store was his hobby,'' says Edie. ''Drinking was his life.''

That`s one of the few cheap shots in the show, for both mother and daughter seem relatively unbruised by an alcoholic household. Which is not to say that they are paragons of emotional stability.

Anyone who observes modern mores-or watches the familial spats on

''Oprah'' for that matter-can sense that the relationships between mothers and daughters are increasingly tangled emotional affairs. And that will surely be the spicy centerpiece of this sitcom.

Add to the show`s premise-is Manhattan too small for two of us?-the obvious professional conflicts-daughter as mother`s boss-and what we have in

''Room for Two'' are the makings of a comedically agile package.

The supporting characters also hold terrific possibilities: Andrew Prine as a dense, self-absorbed ''Wake Up ...'' co-host; a spacy female talent coordinator; Jill`s strait-laced and amorous boyfriend; Edie`s new neighbor

(Peter Michael Goetz); and assorted Manhattan loonies.

Of course, two episodes do not a hit make. But ''Room for Two,'' tailored so perfectly to Lavin`s talents, has a fresh and frisky look.

- I`m always suspicious of movies that start on planes. I know I`m being set up. In ''Quiet Killer'' (8 p.m. Tuesday, CBS-Ch. 2), I`m not sure what`s going on until Kate Jackson, as epidemiologist Nora Hart, shouts at a colleague, ''It`s the plague, Jake. It`s the plague.''

Gee, the plague? I can`t remember the last good made-for-TV plague movie I`ve seen, though I did watch 1950`s ''Panic in the Streets'' with Jack Palance, Zero Mostel and Richard Widmark a couple of weeks back.

The plague in this new film is the deadly pneumonic variety, contracted by a young woman on a camping trip and, on her plane ride back to New York, passed on to a couple of cabin mates. One of them is a congressman (Howard Hesseman) who can`t be found, and who coughs his way through a weekend without medical aid, because he`s bedding another congressman`s wife.

Finding him is Nora`s main goal, complicated by a mayor who doesn`t want to call an emergency because of an upcoming convention; a doorman whose family doesn`t like doctors; a Village Voice reporter who doesn`t want to keep a secret; an aide who commits suicide; a populace so scared they start riots;

and, oh yes, rats and fleas.

''In five days,'' Nora warns, ''half the city could be dead.''

Like a distaff Quincy, she tracks down all the infected people, shuts down the plague-22 dead from disease, 46 from riots-and offers commentary about the joys of living in a dirty city.

There are some moments of tension and terror here, as when a young woman coughs her way down Park Avenue, spewing blood. But they are overshadowed by a silly sensationalism never justified by a melodramatic story.

- Why would I recommend that you watch a documentary that will, if you have a sensitive bone in your body, make you cry?

Because ''The Death of Nancy Cruzan,'' a ''Frontline'' presentation airing at 9 p.m. Tuesday on PBS-Ch. 11, not only addresses important legal and moral issues but also introduces you to a family of remarkable fortitude.

This program is vastly different in focus from ''Let My Daughter Die''

and ''The Right to Die,'' the two previous documentaries that charted the eight-year struggle of the Cruzan family to remove their daughter, Nancy, from the life-support systems that kept her alive but in a vegetative state after a car accident.

Those ''Frontline'' programs-also produced, as was this, by Elizabeth Arledge, who had exclusive access to the family-concentrated on the complicated legal and moral issues of the case.

This final chapter in the trilogy goes right for the heart, wrapping up the events in clear fashion and giving us a moving portrait of an ordinary American family facing extraordinary barriers and emotions to do what they believe is right.

This is not an easy program to watch, a balance of pain and bravery, each in awesome amounts.


A new ABC series. Executive producers are Linda Lavin, Marty Litke and Rick Kellard; created by Kellard and Wendy Goldman; produced by Russ Woody, Barbara Dorio and Emily Levine. Premiere written by Kellard and Goldman, directed by Will Mackenzie. With Linda Lavin, Patricia Heaton, Bess Meyer, Andrew Prine and Paula Kelly. Airing at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on ABC-Ch. 7.

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