Parallel Feature and TV Projects Arrive at Almost the Same Time


On Friday, Orion will release “Lost Angels,” a film about a teen-age boy wrongly placed in a psychiatric hospital by his fully insured, oblivious parents. Nine days later, CBS will broadcast “Out on the Edge,” a TV movie about another boy who finds himself in exactly the same position.

Producers of the film and the TV movie say the nearly simultaneous appearance of two nearly identical dramas is completely coincidental. They recount different starting points and separate development histories of their projects.

Muckraking zeal motivated the TV producer, Steve Tisch, who set his project in motion after seeing a news show segment on the problem.


Personal identification with troubled teens spurred “Lost Angels” co-producer Howard Rosenman, who commissioned a script after reading an article about the problem in the L.A. Weekly and seeing a film treatment touching on the issue. “I’d been counseling runaways in New York, and that started me thinking,” Rosenman says.

Despite the independent development of the two projects, their coincidental arrival highlights the increasing competitiveness among film makers and TV producers for up-to-the-minute source material.

Analogs to the “Lost Angels”-”Out on the Edge” synchronism in this decade include the Frances Farmer bio-pics that appeared two months apart in 1982 and 1983, “Frances” in theatres and “Will

There Really Be a Morning?” on TV. There were also two Dorothy Stratten treatments, “Death of a Centerfold” on TV and “Star 80” in theatres, seen less than two years apart in 1981 and 1983.

Another recent example of parallel thinking by TV and film producers was HBO’s TV movie about minor-league baseball, “Long Gone,” which aired in 1987, a few months before Orion started shooting “Bull Durham.”

In such instances, accusations of copycattism may be heard, but industry decision-makers generally deflect such criticism by saying that similar antennae pick up similar signals.


In this case, the producers were getting signals about parents turning teen-agers over to special-care facilities whose financial motivations don’t necessarily coincide with the child’s best interest.

“We’re seeing today a breakdown in society,” “Lost Angels” co-producer Thomas Baer says, “where the traditional values of parenting are being supplanted by economic motives, while our leaders are saying ‘everything is terrific; this is a great country.’ ”

“In 1989,” says “Out on the Edge” producer Tisch, “it’s naive to think there’s not a high school in America where students aren’t exposed to drugs. Parents who can’t communicate with their kids can get scared by the TV ads for these profit-making institutions that say, ‘If you can’t deal with your child, we can.’ ”

In the TV movie, Rick Schroder plays a boy who can’t get along with his divorced mother’s new romantic interest and feels abandoned by his father. Schroder’s angry rebellion takes fairly mild forms, but his mother, urged on by her boyfriend, agrees to commit him. Insurance will cover most of the cost. The boy has no real psychiatric problem, but he is detained against his will, his only allies being an understanding therapist and another patient who becomes his girlfriend.

In “Lost Angels,” Beastie Boy leader Adam Horovitz makes his film debut as a boy whose recently remarried mother is too distracted to understand him and whose father is too angry to care. Horovitz gets involved with a gang headed by his violent half-brother and is jailed while his mother is away on her honeymoon. She returns and commits him. She, too, is insured. The boy attempts escape but is caught. The only bright spots are an understanding therapist (Donald Sutherland) and another patient who becomes his girlfriend.

Horovitz says of his character: “It’s not like he’s crazy, he just doesn’t know what he wants to do. He’s looking for something.” Schroder says of his character: “He’s a good kid in bad circumstances. His problems are no worse than what I’ve had in my life, but he doesn’t have parents who take time to sit and talk and tell him they’re behind him.”


Both productions take dead aim at laws and medical practices that are “just as likely to solidify anti-social qualities as to improve kids’ behavior,” as Baer puts it.

Both producers dismiss the suggestion that the films’ simultaneous appearances will hurt each other.

“I’m not worried,” Rosenman says. “TV is TV.”

Tisch, whose TV credits include “The Burning Bed,” says: “I think TV movies can be pretty important. The audience is much bigger, and if delivering a message is part of your intention, TV is a better way.”