Saturday Returning Shows, Fall 2001

By Dalton Ross
Updated September 07, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Touched by an Angel

type
  • TV Show
network

CBS, 8-9 p.m.
Debuts September 22

”Some people are embarrassed by saying they believe in God,” says Valerie Bertinelli. ”I’m not.” Good thing, since the former One Day at a Time star was recently sent from above — or, you know, by her agent — to join the gang at Touched by an Angel. Bertinelli’s full-time addition to the cast — she debuted in last season’s final two episodes — marks not only a career comeback for one of America’s most enduring teen stars but a spiritual rebirth for an aging program begging for divine ratings intervention.

Bertinelli may have made an immediate splash in 1975 at the age of 15 playing cute-as-a-button Barbara Cooper on One Day at a Time, but her two other forays into series work (1990’s Sydney and 1993’s Cafe Americain) lasted only one season at a time. By the late ’90s, the actress decided to eschew work — save for the occasional telepic — to care for son Wolfgang, now 10, and husband/guitar whiz Eddie Van Halen, who was diagnosed with tongue cancer in early 2000.

But after five years of relative seclusion, Bertinelli found herself recruited back into the small-screen ministry by Martha Williamson, who offered her a role alongside Roma Downey and Della Reese in CBS’ do-gooder drama. In fact, Williamson had developed the character of Gloria — a ”hardwired” angel created by God expressly to keep up with the fast-paced 21st century — specifically with Bertinelli in mind. ”We never, ever seriously considered another person,” says Williamson. ”It was a remarkable match.”

And now Bertinelli is having a heavenly good time learning to play a seraph with a computer for a brain, while rediscovering the camaraderie of working on a weekly series. ”A set is such a fun place to be, and these people here are so wonderful and so sweet,” Bertinelli says. ”I could listen to Roma talk all day. She’s just got that gorgeous accent.”

Equally enthused is Williamson, who lured Bertinelli in an effort to jazz up the show’s Goody Two-shoes image for its move from a prime-time slot on the Lord’s Day to secular Saturday night. (Younger viewers, consider yourselves courted.) ”For some reason, this season is more exciting to us than the last few have been,” Williamson says. ”Certainly it has to do with Valerie.” It also has to do with some grittier story lines, including one in which — God help her — Gloria mistakenly takes Ecstasy while at a rave. Still, Williamson promises that Angel’s new direction will be a ”subtle change in the content of the show. We won’t mess up the franchise, because that is what got us where we are.”

Thank heaven, because the series’ traditional divine themes are what made coming back to full-time work that much easier for Bertinelli. ”It’s a nice reminder every day that God is around us,” says the newest angel. ”And sometimes I need that reminder when life gets a little too crazy and hectic, and there’s just not enough time to sit still.” Sounds like somebody’s ready to earn her wings.

Episode Recaps

Touched by an Angel

type
  • TV Show
rating
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  • In Season
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