Young Philip Kent, found wandering in the snowy woods of colonial New England, is asked where he's been. "That's a long story that'll keep," he says. So is "The Rebels," a four-hour, two-part syndicated film to be shown tonight and Friday at 9 p.m. on channel 20.
"The Rebels" is Universal Studios' sequel to "The Bastard," which introduced prolific novelist John Jakes' work to television last year. Again Kent is played by Andrew Stevens, whose youthful zeal is beginning to curdle, and again the script, plotting, acting and substance of the story are so bland that they don't even rise to minimal TV standards for acceptable banality.
It all just hazily sort of happens-like a meal eaten in a hospital bed where one is being kept sedated.
As with "The Bastard," this dawdling procession of man-to-man fights and man-to-woman embraces has been "recommended" for viewing by the National Education Association, which suggests screws loose in high places. About all that students could learn about the American Revolution from sitting through this charade is that women of the day were unfailingly bosomy, that winter in Boston is marked by leafy tress and green grass-just like in L.A.-and that, to quote one of the fine young colonial lads, "Without liberty, life has little meaning."
These characters do not look like authorities on the meaning of life any more than they look like actual soldiers of the Continental Army. Stevens and costar Don Johnson may make nimble young heroes, but the cast is top-heavy with unlikely or tire-some old faces doing ridiculous impersonations of personages better served in even the dullest history books.
This is certainly true of Peter Graves as George Washington and Tom Bosley's cloyingly cute Benjamin Franklin. And of all the imaginative strokes, the producers hired William Daniels to play John Adams, a part he already over-acted to the point of torture in the play and the move "1776". One might think he'd be too good for "The Rebels," but, no, he's just bad enough.