TV venture into Wonderland with stars and songs
Advance warning to readers of this preview: I nod off almost immediately when watching shows that feature grown-ups dressed as chickens, whether it is ``Let's Make a Deal'' or ``The Wizard of Oz.'' Well, here comes another ``chicken'' show: Alice in Wonderland (CBS, Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 9 and 10, 8-10 p.m.). Based on a Paul Zindel script that uses both ``Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'' and ``Through the Looking Glass,'' this umpteenth version of ``Alice'' failed to keep me awake despite 19 special songs by Steve Allen, an unending flow of cameo performances by just about every star at liberty in Hollywood, including Red Buttons, Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Martha Raye, Ann Jillian, Carol Channing, Robert Morley, Ringo Starr, and even Shelley Winters as the Dodo Bird.Skip to next paragraph
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Special effects are by John Dykstra, who did the same for ``Star Wars'' but seems to spend most of his time on this production shrinking and magnifying Alice. Ten-year-old Natalie Gregory, who plays Alice, plays her cute. She sings and dances cute, too.
The sprightly songs by Steve Allen, some of which even manage to advance the whimsical story line, served a key purpose: They jolted me awake just when I felt myself nodding off. Scrooge that I am, my favorite was ``There's Something to Say for Hatred,'' sung with nasty tongue-in-cheek glee by Martha Raye and Imogene Coca.
I must concede that this production, made by Irwin Allen Productions, mainly noted for disaster movies, is not a disaster. In fact, there are many viewers who may adore it. Unfortunately, those who would adore it most will have been in bed long before it ends at 10 o'clock on two successive nights. I advise families with children and VCRs to tape the shows and screen them in the early afternoon. That will leave the evenings free for adults to find adult entertainment (see preview of ``Love Is Never S ilent,'' which airs on Monday).
But my best advice may be this: Turn off the television set, get a copy of Lewis Carroll's classic, and read it aloud to the family. Forget about songs and dances and cameo performances by people dressed as chickens.