The latest in television news the week of October 12, 1990 -- Barbara Bush's daytime soap story line, ''thirtysomething'' speculation, and more

Do Not Go Gentle?
Even if Nancy recovers from her life-threatening overain cancer, rumor has it that there may still be a thirtysomething casualty this season — Peter Horton’s Gary Shepard. Word around the set is that Gary will die in a car crash. Spokesmen for both the show and Horton say it isn’t so: ”There are going to be lots of surprises this season, but this won’t be one of them,” executive producer Edward Zwick told ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. ”It’s just not going to happen.” Still, Gary’s departure would tie in with other cast changes: Last summer it was announced that Patricia Kalember (who plays Gary’s live-in girlfriend and the mother of his child) would cut back her appearances on the show to do the NBC drama series Sisters. What’s more, Hroton has long hinted that he’d prefer to concentrate on work behind the camera (he has directed a number of thirtysomething episodes, as well as an NBC movie called Extremely Close-Up, scheduled to air later this season.) If Gary does go, it will raise a number of intriguing plot questions, foremost among them: What happens to the baby?

Guess Who’s Coming to Montana?
When Don Franklin saddled up for last month’s season premiere of The Young Riders, the 29-year-old actor made broadcasting history as the first black cowboy featured as a regular character on a network series. ”People don’t realize it,” Franklin says, ”but there really were lots of black ranchers and cowpokes in the old West. In fact, one in every four cowboys was black.” Franklin has appeared on series TV before — he played Lisa Bonet’s boyfriend on The Cosby Show (1985-86) and costarred on ABC’s Knightwatch (1988) — but he says his role on Riders is his most ambitious. The Saturday-night Western will ”be dealing with all sorts of serious issues,” he says. ”A lot of problems my character will face wil have direct parallels to what’s been going on with race relations today. That’s one thing that makes the material so interesting. The show takes place in the past, but it’s very relevant to the 1990s.

Facial Feature
British Airways’ TV ads are well known for their spectacular special effects — remember the 1984 award-winning spot showing Manhattan island flying over London? — and the company’s latest commercial is in the same inventive tradition. Everybody’s wondering just how it was put together. In the $1 million, 60-second spot, produced by the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi and directed by Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire), 4,500 extras, each of them dressed in red, white, or blue, huddle together in the Utah countryside to form a gigantic smiling face. How’d they do it? Choreographer Judge Chabola had to hover over the giant face in a helicopter, shouting directions into a megaphone and issuing instructions via walkie-talkie to assistants planted among the extras. ”We spent months planning in on paper and working out all the details,” she says. ”There was always this voice inside my head saying, ‘Is this really going to happen?’ When it finally did, it was just an amazing sight to see.”

Bar on a Soap
Barbara Bush is about to pay a visit to Pine Valley. The First Lady will appear as herself on ABC’s All My Children on Oct. 18, delivering a special public service announcement on behalf of the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry. ”We’ve been doing a story line about leukemia for several months now,” explains Agnes Nixon, the show’s creator and head writer. ”One of our researchers discovered that Mrs. Bush is very interested in the subject, so last summer I write a letter asking if she wanted to do our show.” Mrs. Bush agreed, and Nixon flew to the capital last month to tape the 66-second public service spot. ”One of the characters will be watching TV, and Mrs. Bush will appear on the screen,” Nixon says. ”We thought it would be more believable that way, rather than trying to weave Mrs. Bush into the story line.” First ladies have done TV before — most recently, Nancy Reagan delivered a ”Just Say No” antidrug pitch on Diff’rent Strokes in 1983 — but this is the first time one has appeared on a daytime soap. ”We feel honored,” Nixon says. ”We’re making TV history.”

All My Children
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