Loretta Lynn sets herself back 10 years with "Loretta Lynn: The Lady . . . The Legend" (NBC at 10 tonight). Luckily, she's got 20 years equity in the country music business, so she'll bounce back.
This hour-long show is too big a jump from Lynn's one-minute commercials, and she comes across awkward and uncomfortable; then again, executive producer Jim Lipton's pathetic script would probably elicit a similar performance from the Barrymores.
Here's what you get: a look at the exterior of Lynn's ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.; some stiff dialogue but genuine warmth from Sissy Spacek, who won an Oscar for portraying Lynn in "Coal Miner's Daughter" and now sounds almost as good; Lynn and little sister Crystal Gayle showing other family members' favorite pictures from a scrapbook (which we can't see); and much too much of Howard Hesseman, who is beginning to wear out his welcome on television.
There are a few songs (none that you'd expect) in a series of clumsy scenarios that eventually transport Lynn to Nashville's Grand Ole Opry -- by hot-air balloon, no less. And finally, there's the obvious Opry tribute from Conway Twitty, the Oak Ridge Boys and Ernest Tubb, "Walking the Floor Over You" for the millionth time on television.
This is a special that tells you nothing about Lynn, her family, her art, or her dreams, settling instead for a superficial gloss and lip-synched splendor. One keeps looking for Barbara Walters to pop in with a question like, "How long have you been living in Hazard County, Loretta?" She -- and we -- deserve better.