All in all, it's been a tough couple of weeks at KSTU.
First there were all those phone calls complaining about "A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy's Nightmares." And now the Vietnam veterans are upset about Ch. 13's current Jane Fonda Week, with its Jane Fonda movies and specials and its "We're Fonda Jane" promotion."We've had a few calls," station manager Milt Jouflas said Tuesday, "mostly from Vietnam vets who don't think much of Ms. Fonda's political views."
Jouflas understates the situation. According to one source, some anti-Fonda phone calls included bomb threats and other threats of violence against the station and its employees. Jim Slade, a Vietnam veteran who went to KSTU offices Tuesday to peacefully protest the promotion, said the receptionist who announced his arrival to station officials was asked if the visitors had any guns.
"We didn't know about all the flack they were taking until we got out there," Slade said. "They were paranoid. We apologized to them on behalf of all Vietnam vets.
"But we wanted to set the record straight," he said. "Jane Fonda is not a hero. She's a traitor. My personal feeling is they shouldn't show her movies at all, much less show a whole week's worth and make her look like someone special."
Slade's feelings toward Fonda, of course, stem from her pro-North Vietnam activities during the Vietnam War that earned for her the title "Hanoi Jane" - among other less flattering epithets hurled at her by many former American soldiers.
"Promoting Jane Fonda gives a black eye to vets," Slade said. "It really upsets some people."
But it doesn't justify threats of violence against the station, he added. "We had a good talk with them," Slade said. "I think they understood our position, and we understood theirs. They even volunteered to help us raise money for our memorial to Utah's Vietnam veterans."
Now maybe someone should do something for veterans of the PR battles at Ch. 13.
- SOMETHING TELLS ME that if they made a contemporary version of "The Rifleman," it would come out looking a lot like Paradise, the new CBS hourlong series that premieres tonight at 8 p.m. on Ch. 5.
"The Rifleman" gave us Lucas McCain, a peaceful Westerner who could be provoked to violence. "Paradise" gives us Ethan Allen Cord, a violent Westerner who can be provoked to peace. Both are the best there is at what they do. Both have parental responsibilities they didn't anticipate. And both have tender hearts that can be clearly seen through layers of machismo.
McCain is a classic 1950s hero - clean-cut, law-abiding, larger-than-life and a positive role model. Cord is a classic contemporary anti-hero - scruffy, law-breaking, larger-than-life and a positive role model in a negative sort of way. Cord is McCain seen through 1980s sensibilities.
As a little tuber, I really liked "The Rifleman." It's no wonder, then, that as a fully grown Couch Potato, I kind of like "Paradise."
Don't get me wrong. This is not a "great" television series. It's too violent to be considered family fare, and too sentimental to be appealing to adult-oriented audiences. Many of my colleagues are trashing the show, calling it "Little Equalizer on the Prairie" and stuff like that.
But there's something about this show that works for me. Maybe it's Lee Horsley, who brings a believable mixture of steely-eyed danger and vulnerability to the part of Cord, an Old West gunfighter who inherits his late sister's four children. Maybe it's the kids - Jenny Beck, Matthew Newmark, Brian Lando and Michael Carter - an agreeable brood that is neither too cute nor too precocious. Or maybe it's Sigrid Thornton, who brings a nice edge to the show as the town crank and Cord's probable future love interest.
Or it just might be producer David Jacobs, who put aside his "Knots Landing" soap opera mindset long enough to create a series that is both gentle and hard-edged. Jacobs has taken a real risk here, bringing back a Western series years after the genre was declared dead. And the fact of the matter is, "Paradise" probably won't last long against NBC's hot Thursday night line-up.
But if you miss TV Westerns and you like a show that is neither too sweet nor too strong, you just might enjoy a quick trip to "Paradise."
-ELSEWHERE: Is Val really dead? I know it kind of looked that way in last season's Knots Landing (9 p.m., Ch. 5) cliffhanger. But I have a hunch she'll survive when the show returns for its 10th season tonight. Also back for a new season is Cheers (8 p.m., Ch. 2), which will open with a drastic change at the bar: Sam's back in charge, and now Rebecca's working for him. If you ask me (and I know you didn't, but remember - I'm in charge here) it sounds like a change for the better.
And speaking of great returns, here's one you "Mystery!" fans won't want to miss: The Return of Sherlock Holmes II (9 p.m., Ch. 7), with Jeremy Brett back for six new Sherlock Holmes adventures. First up is a two-parter, "The Sign of Four" with Jenny Seagrove as Holmes' latest client.
And don't forget KUTV's prime time special about pre-natal help for pregnant women, Baby Your Baby (7:30 p.m., Ch. 2); PBS profiles Senator Sam (8 p.m., Ch. 7) Ervin; cable coverage of the Jazz-Lakers Game (7:30 p.m., Jazz Cable Network; and Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton star in 9 to 5 (7 p.m., Ch. 13).