TV REVIEW - THE FIRE NEXT TIME
A HOLLYWOOD REPORTER REVIEW
April 16, 1993
The Fire Next Time is a small story in a big package, an underworked, underdeveloped and severely underproduced miniseries that might have worked in two hours but fails miserably in four.
This two-part, futuristic family saga about the impact of global warming in the "not-too-distant future" is neither exciting nor frightening, and certainly lacks the larger-than-life feel required to satisfactorily explore such subject matter. It doesn't really have much to say dramatically about the much-feared environmental condition, instead focusing on one family's story but never doing more than showing us its highly moralistic, highly predictable surface.
Craig T. Nelson does a fine job as a fiercely determined Louisiana shrimper clinging to the old ways and refusing to accept the inevitable, and Bonnie Bedelia does well to add a warmth and steaminess to the action as his estranged science-teaching wife. They stand by their land in Part 1, trying to save their home and family on the Louisiana delta, and in Part 2 they hit the road for higher ground.
The trouble is that this production has neither emotional depth nor environmental urgency, instead choosing to just speed along with a surface look at family members for no apparent reason other than to get to the end. Scenes and relationships are terribly isolated, and the story and style never bother to even try to sew the many disparate pieces together. It's a succession of unrelated side stories presented from the point of view of their impact on the family rather than a wholly focused story, and characters arrive out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly.
The stars do well enough here, but they're trapped in a package that hopes to impress with its futuristic setting but never bothers to do much more than put funny hubcaps on cars, show us a couple of dead fish, introduce the nomadic "eco-survivalists," and present us with the idea of hands-free pay phones.
In the end, this production never manages to be as sad, disparaging or apocalyptic as it should, and never fully reflects a true feeling of urgency. Scenes of scorched countryside, shelters filled with thousands of newly homeless Americans, and dying towns and townsfolk seem much more staged than real, and certainly never achieve the larger-than-life feel. And without it, this project was doomed from the outset.
THE FIRE NEXT TIME
RHI Entertainment Inc.
Executive producers Robert Halmi Jr.,
Co-executive producer Larry Strichman
Producer Edwin Self
Director Tom McLoughlin
Writer James Henerson
Director of photography Shelly Johnson
Line producer Gerrit Van Der Meer
Editor Charles Bornstein, A.C.D.
Production designer William Strom
Music Laurence Rosenthal
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Bonnie Bedelia, Richard Farnsworth, Jurgen Prochnow, Justin Whalin, Shawn Toovey, Ashley Jones, Paul Stephen Rudd, Sal Lopez, Charles Haid, James Parks, Louise Fletcher, Marla Gibbs, Michael Cavanaugh, Nancy McLoughlin
Airdate: Part 1, Sunday, April 18, 9-11 p.m.; Part 2, Tuesday, April 20, 9-11 p.m
Copyright April 1993 The Hollywood Reporter.