TV REVIEWS : 'DAWN' ONLY TRANSFORMS INTO A DAZE

Times Staff Writer

What we have in "Between the Darkness and the Dawn," a new TV movie airing at 9 tonight on Channels 4, 36 and 39, is not "Back to the Future" but rather "Forward to the Present." Or might have had, at any rate, had not the intriguing premise been developed so lamely.

It's 1964. A 17-year-old girl named Abigail lapses into a coma. When she awakens, it's 1984.

Abigail has missed the women's movement, the sexual revolution, the Vietnam War. Fashions have changed, banks dispense money through automated tellers and students are learning by computer. More significantly, the idealism and energy she remembers in her friends has been worn away by two decades of life's hard knocks. Worst of all, Abigail's high school sweetheart has married her younger sister; they have a teen-age son who looks just like his dad did when Abigail last saw him. And, gee, Abigail initially still thinks of herself as a teen-ager, so maybe. . . .

No, not here. The script by N. Richard Nash and Dennis Turner introduces all these elements but without any flair or forcefulness or even a point of view about them. That isn't what the film is about, it turns out. Instead it's one of those hokey formula yarns about a victim bravely battling back from adversity--and the changes of the past two decades are simply the obstacles that must be overcome.

Elizabeth Montgomery doesn't help by playing Abigail so stoically; she's more puzzled than astounded by the strange new world she encounters. Her biggest reaction comes at a family dinner when she learns that Ronald Reagan is President. She laughs uproariously.

But in a move that symbolizes how NBC and/or the film makers have taken nearly every modicum of amusement or viewpoint out of the story, there is a quick cut to Abigail's mother, who insists, "I like Ronald Reagan!"

Good balance, bad television.

And while we're on the subject of comas, a word of caution: prolonged exposure to ABC's "New Love American Style," which joins the weekday schedule at 10:30 a.m. today (Channels 7, 3 and 42), may induce one.

Just when there was hope that daytime TV might be getting better, thanks to last week's announcement that the syndicated "America" series will be terminated, along comes this revival of the comedy anthology series that ran in prime time from 1969 to 1974.

Comedy? In today's premiere, a wife tells her husband of 16 years that she wants to rekindle the romance in their marriage by going on a second honeymoon. His hilarious response: "Didn't we do the first one right?"

Previews of the first four half-hour episodes, each of which contains two stories, indicate that "New Love American Style" doesn't get much better than that. The plots are stupefyingly inane and the characters who aren't outright oafs wind up acting like it, usually because of a mistaken identity or some other contrived misunderstanding.

This series ought to carry a warning: Any resemblance between these people and actual human beings is purely accidental.

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