If you're looking for heartwarming, search no further
The Girl Who Spelled Freedom (ABC, Sunday, Feb. 23, 7-9 p.m.) is the heartwarming-est TV tale since John-Boy said good night for the first time on ``The Waltons.'' This ``Disney Sunday Movie'' is based on the true story of Linn Yann, a young Cambodian refugee who arrived in Chattanooga not knowing a word of English and, within four years, emerged as a national spelling-bee champion.
Wayne Rogers and Mary Kay Place portray Prissy and George Thrash, the Tennessee couple who welcomed Linn, her mother, and her five brothers and sisters into their home as their sponsors for a new life in America after years of war and turmoil in Cambodia. As written by Christopher Knopf and David A. Simons, and directed by R. W. Goodwin, ``The Girl Who Spelled Freedom'' is a modest little TV docudrama that delves only superficially into psychological motivation and barely hints at the problems of adjustment for all concerned. It is too busy implying: Isn't this nice and warm and wonderful?
Well, it is nice and warm and wonderful, even if it is not terribly brilliant and incisive. It is fun to watch the Cambodian family being integrated into the American way of life . . . complete with ``The Three Stooges'' on TV and MTV. Especially wonderful is Jade Chinn as Linn Yann. And at the close of the film there is a charming interlude in which star Wayne Rogers meets all the real people involved, and they prove to be even more delightful than the splendid actors who portray them.
With ``The Girl Who Spelled Freedom,'' Walt Disney Pictures, which is presenting ``The Disney Sunday Movie'' for ABC, is beginning to hit its stride. It's not ``Snow White'' or ``101 Dalmatians,'' but it's fine family entertainment. By the way, could you spell potpourri and accelerometer and acronym? `Kingdom of the Ice Bear'
Three hours of frolicking polar bears and the courtship songs of seals and walruses in the Arctic prove to be just a bit too much of a frozen delight in a new three-part miniseries about the ecosystems of that region.
Kingdom of the Ice Bear (PBS, Sunday, Feb. 23, and March 2, 8-9 p.m., check local listings) premi`ered with ``The Frozen Ocean,'' a co-production of WNET/NY's ``Nature'' series and the BBC Natural History Unit. The second in the series, which airs this Sunday, is titled ``The Land Beyond,'' and Episode 3 is ``The Final Challenge,'' which sums up the future of Arctic ecosystems.
The ubiquitous George Page serves as host, and the series focuses on gorgeous barren landscapes and strange snowbound creatures, including underwater sequences and airborne segments with caribou, barnacle geese, one-horned narwhals, white beluga whales, snowy owls, and furry lemmings scooting by in their natural habitat.
All very well. But there's a need to be selective in the material chosen; there's just too much of everything. This viewer began wishing for an editor with the gumption to say ``enough is enough'' and cut down on some of the repetitious wonderment. Oddly, and perhaps pointedly, some of the most interesting scenes come later in the series in the form of archival footage dealing with life among the Eskimos several decades ago. It is all sinew with very little fat.
Cinematographer Hugh Miles is to be congratulated for his superb photography. But PBS must be wary that it does not start to mimic the commercial network tendency to stretch miniseries to tiresome lengths in order to make up for the enormous costs involved. ``Kingdom of the Ice Bears'' would have made a superb one hour or a fairly interesting two hours, but it turns out to be a repetitious three hours.