Miniseries: Grass Roots

Or, The Longest Four Hours of Your Life. As he did in last season’s Line of Fire: The Morris Dees Story, L.A. Law‘s Corbin Bernsen struggles manfully with a Southern accent while playing a noble lawyer; in Grass Roots, he’s a Georgia attorney defending a white man (Equal Justice‘s James Wilder) accused of raping and killing a black woman. This sequel to the 1983 miniseries Chiefs (both based on best-selling novels by Stuart Woods) has a stunningly obvious point to make: Racism still exists. The case divides the local community along racial lines, and there’s an elaborate subplot about a KKK-like organization called — no one ever accused racists of being imaginative — the Organization.

Thirtysomething‘s Mel Harris plays Bernsen’s love interest while wearing a hairdo that seems lifted from Jane Wyatt in Father Knows Best; the slack tension in their relationship is provided by the fact that she’s a recently promoted, high-level CIA agent, and the Company (not to be confused with the Organization) doesn’t like her bedding down with a controversial liberal lawyer. As it is, she says, ”Some of the old-timers are very unsettled about my promotion,” which will give you some idea of just how zingy the dialogue is.

I nearly sobbed with gratitude when John Glover turned up as an Organization hit man, wearing makeup that leaves him looking like Harry Dean Stanton playing Cyrano de Bergerac. Finally, entertainment!

All in all, however, if I had to watch a miniseries called Grass Roots, I’d have preferred four hours about the rock group that sang ”Midnight Confessions” in the late ’60s. D

Miniseries: Grass Roots
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