The best TV-movie cast of the week — Hume Cronyn, Anne Bancroft, Jerry Orbach, Jonathan Silverman, and thirtysomething‘s Corey Parker — star in this television adaptation of Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound. Set in 1948, it’s about two brothers (Parker and Silverman), aspiring comedy writers for radio, who still live at home with their parents (Bancroft and Orbach) and grandfather (Cronyn).
There’s something flat, artificial, and, well, stagy about this TV version, adapted by Simon and directed by Paul Bogart (Torch Song Trilogy). The brothers banter and bicker energetically in roles Simon based on his relationship with his own older brother, comedy writer and producer Danny Simon; Orbach’s character looks hangdog because he’s seeing another woman, which makes him feel sad and guilty, while Bancroft plays his wife as a long- suffering saint whose fondest memory is the night George Raft asked her to dance.
I had no trouble believing that this material might be funny and moving on a stage; Simon mixes tender deliberation with his sharp punch lines. But on TV, it’s like watching a long, ”very special” episode of Brooklyn Bridge, one in which everybody gets serious to deliver lines like ”What I see is the disappointment in your eyes” — that’s what Bancroft says to Orbach at one point. On Broadway, it might have been possible to suspend disbelief in the formal stiffness of such dialogue. Watching it on TV, where the camera’s close-ups insist on intimacy and naturalism, you think, ”Sorry, people just don’t talk like that.” B-