In 1983, Francis Ford Coppola turned a popular S.E. Hinton teen novel into a movie that showcased then-unknowns such as Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane, Emilio Estevez, and C. Thomas Howell. The movie was a gloomy drag, but you have to admire Coppola's prescient casting.
Now Coppola is the co-executive producer of the Fox network's version of The Outsiders, and I suppose seven years from now we could be pointing to this as the series that launched the careers of present-day unknowns Jay R. Ferguson, Rodney Harvey, Boyd Kestner, and Kim Walker.
We could, but I doubt it; where the juvenile delinquents in the movie were moody and menacing, these TV Outsiders are merely pouty and petulant. They should have called this show Drips in a Snit.
Fox's Outsiders tells the same story as the movie: Darrel Curtis (Kestner) is an earnest greaser responsible for raising his wayward greaser brothers, Ponyboy (Ferguson) and Sodapop (Harvey). They scuffle regularly with ''the Socs,'' the middle-class hoodlums who are distinguishable from the greasers primarily by their cashmere sweaters and penny loafers.
All the guys in the show swagger, jut their jaws, and breathe loudly through their noses to convey intense emotion. They make their eyes go all sad and moony whenever the show's bossest chick, the boss-named Cherry Valance (Walker), strolls by.
These days, grown-ups tend to be so pathetically grateful whenever a teenager deigns to pick up a book that no one seems to have the gumption to point out that Hinton's popular novels aren't exactly prose masterpieces. She writes sullen soap operas that flatter flaming youth for its sensitivity.
On film and the TV screen, however, her characters are exposed for what they really are: rude dudes, rebels without a clue, who expect all adults to play Jim Backus to their collective James Dean. 21 Jump Street is emotionally complicated by comparison. C-