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As if TV mini-series weren't already feeding all the romance/family-saga formulas to young audiences, here--in three episodes, circa 1940-1980--Kerr offers a condensed, multi-generational soap/melodrama: crisply packaged but no less hackneyed or contrived than the longwinded adult versions. The first section--""Mildred Cone in the Forties""--is the longest and by far the best, featuring some hard-edged realism reminiscent of vintage Joan Crawford. ""War or no war: I just want to get out of this town, and be somebody!"" So says poor, sexy, harp-playing Mildred--whose best friend, high-school classmate Laura Stewart, narrates. And, though from the wrong side of the tracks, Mildred wins the adoration of dashing Powell Storm, scion of this upstate-N.Y, town's richest, poshest family. Powell's parents object, of course; the lovers remain defiant; then Powell goes off to war, unknowingly leaving Mildred pregnant; so she hastily marries clownish, kind Wormy Haigney--while Powell is killed in WW II action. A familiar tale? Very much so. But, with assured 1940s atmosphere and small-town details, Kerr delivers it with warm, unforced freshness. Unfortunately, however, the rest is downhill all the way. In the very brief ""Vincent Haigney in the Sixties,"" Mildred's 17-year-old son--a would-be rock star--learns the secret of his paternity, while (just like papa) falling hopelessly in love with a sexy, shady girl. And the third section is a 1980s monologue by Vincent's son Powell, full of tiresome whining and clumsy plot exposition: Powell sketches in his father's career as notorious rock-superstar Saint Vincent (a.k.a. ""Saint Cocaine""); he recalls his parents' broken marriage, his uneasy relationship with those posh Storm relatives; he complains about his selfish father's neglect, even after his mother's car-crash death; and he reconstructs a bygone love-triangle that led to a Storm-family suicide. . . while a few glimpses of grandma Mildred provide a little (not nearly enough) warmth and continuity. As preparatory reading for the Danielle Steel fans of tomorrow, this is a slick, fast, easy-reading performance--complete with a ring that passes down from generation to generation (cf. Steel's The Ring); but Kerr's distinctive gifts for true-to-life grit and humor flicker very dimly here--and only in that opening episode.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1985
Publisher: Harper & Row