If you're looking for the perfect movie to watch after "Touched by an Angel" on Sunday, you don't even have to change the channel. Just stay tuned to CBS/Ch. 2 and watch "Anya's Bell."
Both "Touched" and "Anya" star Della Reese. Both were produced in Utah. And both share the same sort of upbeat, feel-good outlook.In other words, "Anya's Bell" (Sunday, 8 p.m.) is a very nice little movie the entire family can sit down and enjoy together.
(The telefilm was filmed in Salt Lake City, but it's not set here, and there are no Utah references.)
Set in 1949, "Anya's Bell" chronicles the unlikely friendship between a 12-year-old learning-disabled boy (Mason Gamble, of "Dennis the Menace") and an older, blind woman (Reese). Young Scott tries hard in school, but he just can't keep up -- he can't even read very well. And it doesn't help that his teacher believes that the way to motivate her students is to humiliate them.
Scott works as a delivery boy for the local drug store, which is how he makes the acquaintance of Anya. Delivering medicine to the blind woman one day, Scott proves his honesty and expresses an interest in Anya's prize collection of bells (thus the movie's title). And the two mark the beginning of a friendship.
Anya herself is a study in contrasts. Strong-willed and sure of herself, she is, at the same time, too afraid to leave her house alone. In the wake of her mother's recent death, Anya is faced with the prospect of having to move out of the only home she has ever known.
So this rather unorthodox pair come to each other's rescues. Scott teaches Anya how to use a cane for the blind and get around on her own, and Anya teaches Scott how to read Braille.
Lo and behold, he doesn't have trouble reading when his fingers do the walking. Which leads Anya to suspect that the boy isn't "slow" -- that his problem might be dyslexia.
The story also includes the fact that Scott's mother (Kelly Rowan) never married his father, and the rift that it caused within the family -- a rift the young boy is determined to repair.
The movie is handsomely produced and nicely directed. Reese doesn't have to stretch much for the role, and she does a marvelous job as a seemingly crusty woman who turns out to be a sweetheart.
And "Anya's Bell" is an altogether sweet, charming little movie that will leave you feeling better than when you started watching it. Not great art, perhaps, but fine entertainment.
JUST NOT WORKING: To no one's great surprise, CBS has lowered the cancellation boom on the sitcom "Work With Me."
The move came after four episodes had aired, which was about three more than anyone really needed to see to be convinced that "Work With Me" was never going to work. Despite the presence of Nancy Travis and Kevin Pollack -- who are as appealing and talented as actors come -- this sitcom was as labored and unfunny as they get.
No word yet on what CBS will air in place of the canceled show on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.
WORKING RATHER WELL: There's good news for another CBS show -- the network has picked up its Friday-night series "Now and Again" for a full season.
Yours truly is somewhat surprised but ever so pleased. This offbeat program about a middle-aged insurance agent who is killed, then has his brain transplanted into a genetically engineered, perfect body of a much younger man is oddly engaging.
I always liked the show but was skeptical about its chances -- partly because it is rather unusual and partly because of its Friday-at-8 p.m., time slot.
They're even a bit surprised at CBS about how well "Now and Again" is doing. According to the network, it's the first fall freshman to win its time period in key demographics (18-49 and 25-54) on a Friday night since "Beauty and the Beast," way back in 1987.
And the success of "Now" has been a boon to the show that follows it, "Nash Bridges." That series is up more than 10 percent in the ratings this season, which is apparently due entirely to the boost "Now and Again" provides for it.
Basically, what's happening this fall is that NBC wins the first hour on Fridays with "Providence," then CBS wins the second and third hours. And, in three of the past four weeks, CBS has won the night overall in total viewers, households and key demographics -- which marks a huge turn-around from last season.
(And it has also meant big trouble for NBC's 9 p.m. show, "Cold Feet," which is in some serious ratings problems.)
The pick-up order for "Now and Again" means that all three of the hourlong drama series CBS introduced this fall will be on at least through the end of the season. (The other two are "Family Law" and "Judging Amy.") Given the high attrition rate for new shows, that's a surprising bit of success.
ISN'T THAT INTERESTING: According to CBS, the network received only about 40 complaints after the episode of "Chicago Hope" that featured the use of that four-letter word for excrement.
That's about half as many as CBS received for an episode of "Hope" that aired last season and featured a plotline about breastfeeding.
In other words, that won't be the last time that word gets used on prime-time, network television.
QUOTABLE: "Late Night" host Conan O'Brien: "Kathie Lee Gifford announced that next month she is going to make her Broadway debut, and theater producers say the project is perfect for her. Apparently Kathie Lee is starring in the musical 'The Best Little Sweatshop in Indonesia.' "