NBC's "Mr. Rock 'n' Roll: The Alan Freed Story," a two-hour biopic of the deejay credited with coining the term "rock-and-roll," airs Sunday at 9. Judd Nelson plays the title role.
Freed, who helped popularize the new musical genre in the 1950s, later became caught up in the payola scandals and died in obscurity.
The draw for this production is original versions of songs from the era, sung by the artists who made them famous. NBC does not plan to offer a tape or CD of the soundtrack, however.
The show's songs include "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," "Lonely Teardrops," "A Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On," "Rock Around the Clock," "Tutti Frutti" and "Peggy Sue." Among the artists are Little Richard, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Moonglows, Bo Didley, Jackie Wilson and Bill Haley and the Comets.
Also in the production are "Earth Angel," "In the Still of the Night," "Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay," "I Only Have Eyes for You" and "Sincerely," which was co-written by Freed.
Madchen Amick plays Freed's wife; Paula Abdul is a songwriter; actor Leon, who appeared in "The Temptations," plays Jackie Wilson; and Walter Franks is Little Richard. Former rock heartthrobs Bobby Rydell and Fabian have cameo roles as fathers worried about the impact of rock music on their kids.
The movie begins in 1951 when Freed, who had been playing mainstream music on his Cleveland radio show, decides to play controversial black music he had heard was growing popular among both black and white teenagers. Despite concern from conservative parents, who feared the music might spawn illicit sex, anarchy and crime, rock-and-roll grew in popularity.
Freed moved to New York in 1954 and in 1957 began hosting rock shows on television, but got into trouble with ABC when singer Frankie Lymon danced with a white girl during a telecast. The network told Freed he could not have black artists on the show. He balked, and his show was canceled after four appearances.
Still, Freed continued to present rock-and-roll shows in New York City and appeared in five rock-and-roll movies from 1956 to 1958.
Meanwhile, his marriage dissolved, his health declined, he lived beyond his means and he became a target of investigation by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. Accusations that he had accepted payoffs -- payola -- from record companies to play certain records on the air sealed his fall from grace. Fired from his New York station, he worked briefly in Los Angeles and was fired after only two months in Miami. In December 1962, in New York, Freed pleaded guilty to two counts of commercial bribery and was fined $300. He died in January 1965.
In 1986, Freed was among the original inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Tuesday at 8 on PBS
The science series looks at one of the most famous unsolved murders in this country, that of Marilyn Sheppard in Cleveland in 1954, and the indictment of her husband, physician Sam Sheppard, who served 10 years of a life sentence before his conviction was overturned. A second trial ended in acquittal, but Sheppard died a broken man in 1970. Forensic evidence that was ignored then is being reexamined using new technology, including DNA fingerprinting.
GUESTS OF NOTE
Monday: Patricia Richardson on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" at 9 on NBC; Jason Beghe and Ron Perlman on "Family Law" at 10 on CBS.
Tuesday: Boomer Esiason on "Spin City" at 8 on ABC; Carrie Fisher on "It's Like, You Know . . . " at 8:30 on ABC; talk show host Gary Collins on "Dharma & Greg" at 9 on ABC; Tippi Hedren and country singer-songwriter Mark Collie on "The Strip" at 9 on UPN; William H. Macy on "Sports Night" at 9:30 on ABC.
Wednesday: Singer Lou Rawls on "Norm" at 8:30 on ABC.
Thursday: Michelle Phillips and Joanna Cassidy on "Diagnosis Murder" at 8 on CBS; Antonio Sabato Jr. on "Wasteland" at 9 on ABC; Alan Alda, Rebecca DeMornay and Martha Plimpton on "ER" at 10 on NBC.
Friday: Chad Lowe on "Now and Again" at 9 on CBS; Barry Livingston and Reginald VelJohnson on "The Hughleys" at 9:30 on ABC.
Saturday: Rapper Heavy D on "Martial Law" at 9 on CBS.