"I'm gonna miss you, big guy," says Fortune Dane, standing over a midget's grave. The melancholy Dane is a big guy, too, as played by Carl Weathers, Apollo Creed of the "Rocky" films, but unfortunately he is the sole distinction of the new ABC crime-drama series "Fortune Dane," which premieres at 9 tonight on Channel 7.
The opening credits are a body-worshipping montage starring Weather's leathery epidermis. What pecs, what abs; what lats, what slats! It seems Dane is a former pro football player turned cop, but by the time tonight's introductory pilot show is over, he is an ex-cop off on a manhunt to clear his father's name.
Dad, played by Adolph Caesar ("A Soldier's Story"), is in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes for his role in laundering $5 billion in drug money, but it takes forever for us and Fortune to find this out and, soon after we do, the episode is over, leaving loose ends aplenty. In addition, some of those listed as series regulars in the opening credits -- including one-time Andy Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro -- never appear at all. They will materialize in later installments, an ABC spokesman said yesterday.
Weathers is supervising producer of the show; the pilot was written by Ronald M. Cohen and directed by Nicholas Sgarro. Most of their touches seem numbingly standard, but it cannot be denied that Weathers cuts a rousingly emphatic figure in the title role. When he jumps on the hood of a bad guy's car to make a threatening point, even the car seems intimidated.
In future episodes, Dane deigns to serve as personal trouble-shooter for a big-city mayor; ABC should have seen to it that this development was incorporated in the pilot, which now rings inconclusive. Whether viewers will want to return for more, whether they will be in an adequately Fortune Danish mood after tonight's opener, seems entirely dependent on the Weathers charisma.
Television series, it should be noted, have certainly succeeded on less. "Nature"
A polar bear in search of a seal entree paces around the Arctic ice trying to locate the seal, which, not wishing to become tonight's cuisine, is doing evasive maneuvers in the frigid water. The bear above, the seal below. It's one of the many striking sights on this week's edition of the PBS "Nature" series that inspire a viewer to ask, "How ever did they film that?"
"The Frozen Ocean," at 8 p.m. Sunday on Channel 26 and other public TV stations, is the first third of a trilogy called "Kingdom of the Ice Bear: A Portrait of the Arctic," which will continue over succeeding weeks. Visions of ice and snow may not seem like much of a temptation right now, here in the frozen depths of February, but the program is entirely worth seeing and exquisitely put together.
How they filmed the bear and the seal was by having coproducers Mike Salisbury and Hugh Miles follow the bear around while specialist cameraman Martin Saunders, submerged under six feet of ice, captured the seal. The bears, of course, are enthralling, particularly during a sequence in which a mother teaches her cub the fine old arctic art of seal stalking.
Also hanging around the sparsely populated wastes are walruses, marine life and multiple flocks of black-legged kittiwakes, who flutter around nervously in contrast to the lumberingly patient polar bear, very nonchalant about his role as "the largest carnivore in the world."
George Page handles the narration in his usual authoritative and inobtrusive style. There is a very sparing use of music, and the narration is minimal, in part so that we can sense the vast silences of the Arctic region. It does look forbiddingly chilly and vacant, yes, but it also has a hypnotic hushed beauty, as if it were the one last place on Earth to find absolute and unspoiled peace and quiet. "60 Minutes"
Four months into their marriage, Donna Selby is finally learning how to form numbers and write a check, and her husband Ricardo Thornton is patiently guiding her through the pages of "My Little Red Story Book." Ricardo has an IQ of 67 and Donna has an IQ of 64; they are classified as retarded, and in 32 states, people like them are forbidden to marry or to have children.
But they live in the District, which has no such law, and their story, told as a segment of "60 Minutes" this week (Sunday night at 7 on Channel 9), becomes a belated valentine. It is a story about overcoming what is perceived as a handicap, yes, and the couple are given an award for that by Mayor Marion Barry near the end of the segment, but it is also a love story, a brave romance.
Mike Wallace is the correspondent, revealing again a mellower side that makes him the perfect reporter for this piece, which follows the couple through their daily activities and on a visit to the institution, Forest Haven, where they once lived, and where they say they witnessed or experienced recreational beatings by the staff. The place is soon to close, Wallace says.
In a simple reaction shot of Wallace as he stands near a swing on which Donna is reminiscing, you can sense what makes the old boy one of the true class acts in network news.
"Some people make fun at you," Donna says, and she talks about the simple victory of figuring out the bus system and riding in confidence. She celebrates a birthday at Hamburger Hamlet with Ricardo, who has had a job at a library for seven years. Doubters predicted he would barely be able to hold it for one.
Now the couple is taking the risky step of planning for a baby. Donna talks with a support group about the hazards this may involve, physical and emotional. Donna and Ricardo are not only a retarded couple; they are also an interracial couple. They probably know as much about dealing with prejudice as anyone would want to know.
"Donna and Ricardo" was produced and shot with their usual sensitivity and expertise by Paul and Holly Fine. As can be said of few journalists since the beginning of journalism, they are also artists, and their work is a credit to a program that continues to be a credit to CBS. At the ripe old television age of 18, "60 Minutes" is still admirably capable of surprises.