Hollywood tales start up again, still uneven in quality

Tales From the Hollywood Hills PBS, Fridays, through Nov. 18. Produced by WNET, New York, and Zenith Productions, United Kingdom. The second season of ``Tales From the Hollywood Hills'' continues the roller-coaster ride through Tinseltown which started last year with stories based on works of famous authors who lived and worked in Hollywood.

The first season featured John O'Hara, Budd Schulberg, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The dramas based on their work proved to be uneven - sometimes hitting their marks, at other times of no more than old-time B-movie quality.

This season the same holds true. I have previewed all three of the works based on material by P.G. Wodehouse, William Faulkner, and Gavin Lambert.

Wodehouse's ``The Old Reliable'' (tonight) proves to be a forced farce about Hollywood scandals. Although Rosemary Harris and Lynn Redgrave are featured, the best performance is by Paxton Whitehead, playing an English butler/thief.

``Golden Land'' (Nov. 11), based on a Faulkner story, proves to be a slow, obvious lecture on Far West versus Midwest morality. The adaptation tries hard to meander meaningfully through the morass of immorality in the movie capital. What it succeeds in doing mostly is slowing down to a boring pace.

``The Closed Set'' (Nov. 18), based on a Gavin Lambert story about a fading star and her manipulation of talented people, is a sad but glorious little drama that delves effectively into the underside of Hollywood. This final episode is blessed with a superb performance by Rita Moreno, portraying a Joan Crawford-like figure.

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