TV Article

Cable: Politics, Thrillers, Plenty of Laughs

What's new on cable this fall -- HBO airs ''Stalin'' while Showtime airs comedy specials from Jim Carrey and Tim Allen

More movies, more series, more specials, more ulcers for network executives: Cable's 1991-92 season offers something for every viewer who's feeling disenchanted with network fare and willing to explore the upper reaches of the TV dial.

Many of cable's most ambitious projects will dive into the deep waters of politics and social history, two areas where broadcast networks often paddle in the shallows. Robert Duvall takes on his biggest role since Lonesome Dove in HBO's six-hour miniseries Stalin. TNT's four-hour Iran: Days of Crisis recounts the 1979 hostage taking at the U.S. embassy in Iran; the cast includes Ghost's Tony Goldwyn, and George Grizzard as Jimmy Carter. And HBO is adapting a book that was too hot for NBC to handle: journalist Randy Shilts' AIDS history, And the Band Played On, which Joel Schumacher (Dying Young) will direct. Even the generally genteel Arts & Entertainment Network plays politics — sexual politics, that is — with a miniseries based on Fay Weldon's novel The Cloning of Joanna May, from the team that created bizarre Life and Loves of a She-Devil.

The rest of the season's movie lineup will be doing what cable dows best — luring big stars to unique projects. TNT reunites Don't Look Now's Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in The Railway Station Man, and Gena Rowlands and Holly Hunter, who played mother and daughter in last winter's Once Around, do it again in TNT's Crazy in Love, which depicts a crumbling marriage. Their Once Around costar Richard Dreyfuss also turns up on cable, in Ken Russell's Prisoner of Honor, which recounts — of course — the Dreyfus Affair. Memphis casts Cybill Shepherd as a little boy's kidnapper; the actress wrote the script with Last Picture Show author Larry McMurtry from a novel by Civil War historian Shelby Foote. Kris Kristofferson portrays a 19th-century frontiersman in TNT's Christmas-themed Miracle in the Wilderness, and Jack Lemmon plays a millionaire who decides to start from scratch in HBO's Getting There. Jodie Foster and Dennis Hopper costar in the thriller Catchfire when the long-shelved theatrical release arrives on Showtime in December, and Jason Robards will star in the Disney Channel's Mark Twain and Me.

Lifetime's biggest name is off camera — Diane Keaton, who is directing her first TV movie, Wildflower, with Beau Bridges. Two other Lifetime films of note: a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious, and Silent Motive, a crime drama that marks Emmy-winner Patricia Wettig's first post-thirtysomething TV role. Wettig's ex-''husband,'' Timothy Busfield, appears in Strays, which the USA Network promises will be the Arachnophobia of catdom. And although most of USA's 30 movies will be standard crime-thriller fare, one departure is Princes in Exile, about young cancer patients.

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