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"Common Ground"

"Common Ground" is no "Angels in America."


I wish Common Ground (Saturday, January 29; 8 to 10 p.m.; Showtime) were altogether wonderful instead of merely all right. Paula Vogel, Terrence McNally, and Harvey Fierstein have written screenplaylets to depict gay life as it may have changed in a fictitious New England town called Homer between the fifties and the nineties -- from invisibility in 1954 to coming out in 1974 to same-sex marriage in 2000. The redoubtable likes of Ed Asner, Beau Bridges, Brian Kerwin, Margot Kidder, Dan Lauria, James Le Gros, Brittany Murphy, Jason Priestley, Mimi Rogers, Helen Shaver, Eric Stoltz, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and Steven Weber are directed with efficiency and affection by Donna Deitch. We spend some time in the Navy (Joe McCarthy is on the black-and-white set); in a high-school French class and swimming pool (Nixon is impeached in color); and, on the morning of a wedding day and a protest demonstration against that wedding, up in a tree house in the municipal park as a father and son take each other's measure.

As well meaning, nobly intended, and skillfully played as it is (Asner is terrific, and so are the turkey-baster jokes), what Common Ground isn't is Angels in America. And while Tony Kushner's angry epic may be too much to ask for from cable TV, we've already seen, to recall a couple of notable instances, not only Longtime Companion but also Tongues Untied and might at least have hoped for an equivalent to the sophistication of In the Life, the monthly gay-themed PBS magazine show.


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