General Electric will warm our hearts or kill us. The company's "GE Theater," a series of occasional drama specials, is really an entertainment extension of its Toaster Oven; pop in your heart and fwoosh. Obviously the sponsor is looking for scripts that are compatible with its rosy-wholesome "GE Brings Good Things to Life" vignette commercials. Unfortunately, the commercials are almost always better than the shows themselves.
"Something So Right," GE's CBS movie at 9 tonight on Channel 9, should get some sort of award for adhering with clockwork fidelity to a formula. It's cuddlevision-by-the-numbers for the very, very gullible. And yet, as corny and predictable as it is, it's also basically unobjectionable. With television, you always have to be grateful for any two hours bereft of rapes, car chases or homicidal maniacs.
And James Farentino gets to step into a new realm as lovable but eccentric Mr. Potts, who takes on the role of Big Brother and surrogate father to young Ricky Schroder, as a mildly troublesome sixth-grade boy, and in the process falls in love with Patty Duke Astin as the boy's divorced mother. Writers Shelley List and Jonathan Estrin develop their story along lines any 5-year-old would recognize. And director Lou Antonio dutifully stands back to let the tears fall where they may.
Joey is a naughty little sixth grader whose mom goes to the Big Brother people when all else fails (although she never does try the time-tested spanking remedy -- in TV movies such as this, kids are to be worshiped and feared, but never punished). Potts appears at the door as a deceptively unpleasant surprise. And Farentino plays him as a pretty lovable slob, paunchy and balding but full of life. He and the boy play ball, exchange burps, go to see "Star Wars" (the boy for the ninth time, the man for the first), and learn Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First?" routine -- a detail borrowed from Martin Ritt's movie "Pete 'n' Tillie."
As anyone who has watched a minimum of three TV movies in his life knows, there will be a crisis about three-quarters of the way through (the woman's palooka of an ex-husband makes an unexpected re-appearance), but all will be well by the final freeze-frame. Actually, there is no freeze-frame; it's one cliche' they forgot to put in. Better luck next time, and a next time there definitely will be. This stuff may be yechy, but apparently it sells Toaster Ovens like crazy.