`Kane & Abel' is a good yarn -- no more, no less

Well, ``North and South'' is finally over. And just when you thought it was safe to get back to your TV set without getting tempted into an overlong miniseries, along comes Kane & Abel (CBS, Sunday, 8-11 p.m.; Monday, 9-11 p.m.; Tuesday, 9-11 p.m.). It is based on Jeffrey Archer's best-selling 1980 novel, and the chances are you will enjoy the television version of ``K&A'' just about as much as you enjoyed the novel. If you avoided the novel because you refuse to involve yourself in long, uninspired, but competently professional potboilers, better avoid the miniseries as well. It, too, is long, uninspired, competently professional. No more. Maybe even less.

This tale of how power and money corrupt the emotions of free-enterprisal man stars Peter Strauss and Sam Neill as, respectively, a Polish immigrant and a Boston Brahmin. Their lives parallel, cross, recross, and finally merge in a series of clashes, feuds, animosities, love affairs, and finally, new-era offspring.

Through it all, director Buzz Kulik manages to skillfully lead a group of talented actors through a routinely predictable script by Robert W. Lanski. Strauss attacks his Polish accent with a kind of authentic ferocity which almost has you believing his character, who is meant to be a symbol of entrepreneurial initiative, determined to succeed without regard for the consequences.

Strauss, now turning into an alcoholic on Showtime's concurrently airing ``Tender Is the Night,'' is becoming TV's actor for all seasons -- he always approaches his characterizations with professional integrity.

When I talked with Strauss about the miniseries recently, I asked him if he believed it to be a serious comment on the free-enterprise system.

His slightly confusing response: ``I don't know if it's profound enough to say that. I don't think Archer intended that. He's British and has an objective perspective on American culture. Archer's book and the film are grounded in the hateful things men do to each other to succeed, how they abuse power, how they betray, and how they love. It's just a good yarn.'' Oh, well, if you're in the market for a soapy, non-profound, ``good yarn,'' told in a series of capitalistic clich'es, you m ay want to add ``Kane & Abel'' to your viewing schedule.

But if not, there are two fascinating alternatives: Hostage Flight (NBC, Sunday, 9-11 p.m.) is a gripping, offbeat thriller which that manages also to cope with questions of morality in the case of a sky-borne hijacker-hostage situation. And The Execution of Raymond Graham (ABC, Sunday, 9-11 p.m.), an unpreviewable live presentation, tion directed by Daniel Petrie, which depicts the final two hours in the life of a condemned man.

All three programs, however, deal with violence in one form or another. So if tranquillity is your goal, better look elsewhere. Whatever happened to quiet, peaceful Sundays on the tube?

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