Television Reviews : 'Taking Care'

PBS' newest "Wonderworks" presentation, "Taking Care of Terrific," is a bittersweet tale about street people, a trio of middle-class kids and the need for human contact. It airs tonight at 7 on Channels 28 and 50 and at 8 on Channel 15.

Jim Purdy directs with care--the interaction between the youngsters rings true--but Kenneth Cavander's teleplay, based on a story by Lois Lowry, has a few problems with insularity.

Self-sufficient, sensitive 14-year-old Enid (Joanne Vannicola), daughter of two busy professionals, takes frequent breaks from her prosaic world in a nearby park--a place where she calls herself Cynthia, makes sketches of the geese on the lake and talks to a street musician named Hawk (Melvin Van Peebles).

Hawk, a philosopher who plays "Stardust" on the saxophone, could well have been made up by a 14-year-old: This supposedly streetwise adult is as benign as Winnie-the-Pooh.

That's the weakness here. The street people seem like a child's fantasy figures, particularly the regal Mrs. Foster (Jackie Burroughs), a Mary Poppins-like character with a carpet bag.

A little more grittiness would bring the reality home.

Together with her boyfriend Seth (Zack Ward); her overly protected baby-sitting charge, 6-year-old Josh--who likes to be called Tom Terrific (Benjamin Barret)--and Hawk, Enid plans a special treat for the park's many bag ladies.

It's a magic moment--beautifully filmed--but Enid's quixotic gesture gets everyone in trouble, and her father tells her she's only made it worse for the street people. Here at last is the real world: There's a happy ending of sorts--legal charges are dropped--but there will be no miracle for the homeless.

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