There is only so much you can say about the problems of aging in a one-hour television play tailored for young audiences. And it is said about as well as the medium allows on today's "Special Treat" program, "The Rocking Chair Rebellion" (Channel 4 at 4 p.m.).
The show stars Teresa Wright and Shepperd Strudwick as two old people who find happiness together escaping from a nursing home, and Cheryl Aruft as a bright teen-ager who helps them in their determination not to "slow down" or accept being "treated like a small child." The show's reach exceeds its grasp -- but its intentions are good and it accomplishes most of them.
The show navigates nimbly around sterotypes, showing some old people as eccentric but not really batty and pportyraying a home for the aged as mildly depressing but no really horrible. It avoids making anyone angry, won a recommendation from the National Education Association, and will doubtless provide homework for many students tonight. But the result is a blandness that defies dramatic interest.
"I'd rather die than go into an old folk's home," says Strudwick near the beginning, and a few scenes later we catch Wright in her [WORD ILLEGIBLE] attempt to run away from the Maple Ridge Home for the Aged. Good stuff, but there is no follow-through. With peppy young Arutt feeding the old folks ideas about the creative use of the golden years, the home actually turns into quite a pleasant place, and there seems little urgency and a rather quixotic flavor in the last-minute decision of some of the old folks that they iwll move out and start a Geritol-generation commune.
They are blocked by a zoning law and by some very mildly hinted sterotyped ideas among their neighbors, and they work out a last-minute solution just in time for an upbeat final scene. The underlying problems are unsolved at the end (if society can't solve them, can a television show?), but at least they may be a little better understood.