Evening Shade - Season One
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Wood Newton (Burt Reynolds) is a retired pro American Football player who has returned to his childhood home - the small town of Evening Shade, Arkansas. He's now the coach of the local high school Football team, which brings him closer to the other residents of the town.
The sun set on Evening Shade in 1994, but it's morning again for this charmingly laid-back series set in a small Arkansas town populated by a gallery of colorful characters. Evening Shade gave Burt Reynolds what Look Who's Talking gave John Travolta; a career bump after his star had somewhat dimmed. Reynolds would earn a People's Choice Award, an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his tailor-made role as Wood Newton, a former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback who returns to his small town to serve as the high-school football coach. As the series begins, the team is mired in a 30 games-and-counting losing streak. His wife, Ava (Marilu Henner), whom Wood married when she was 18, no sooner launches her campaign for prosecutor, than she learns she is pregnant. Evening Shade was created by Clinton cronies Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (it is said that Hillary suggested the show's setting and title), but the show is a Red Stater's dream; a celebration of small town America and the three F's; family, friends, and faith. In the pilot, Wood bemoans the replacement of the local eatery's jukebox and the substitution of Milli Vanilli and "Me So Horny" for the cherished songs of his youth, like "Blueberry Hill." In "Gambler's Anonymous," get out your tissues when guest star Kenny Rogers sings the stirring "20 Years Ago." Reynolds anchors the series (he also directed eight episodes) and snaps one-liners with his flip panache, but he generously cedes the spotlight to the stellar ensemble of estimable character actors, including Hal Holbrook as Evan, Ava's father and the crusty publisher of the local newspaper, Ossie Davis as Blue, the sage owner of the local barbeque hangout, and whose Our Town-esque narration frames most of the episodes, Charles Durning as the outsized family physician, Michael Jeter, an Emmy-winner as the wimpy-looking math teacher who signs on as Wood's new assistant coach, and Elizabeth Ashley as southern diva Frieda, Ava's aunt. Adding more local color are Nub (Charlie Dell), the slow-witted paperboy (a character that would barely pass PC muster today), Ann Wedgeworth as Merleen, the doc's sexy wife, and Linda Gehringer as Fontana Beausoleil, a striptease artist with a heart of gold. Evening Shade has its own easy-going rhythm, and the same smart and sassy humor the Thomasons brought to Designing Women. In the episode, "Hooray for Wood," a movie crew is in town to film a Civil War miniseries. When a producer mentions they don't have enough blacks for slaves, Blue dryly replies, "Age-old problem." --Donald Liebenson
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Hal Holbook played Evan Evans, a newspaper owner in a small town. His feisty sister, Frieda, is perfectly played by the wonderful Elizabeth Ashley. Michael Jeter played the assistant coach. Ossie Davis played the restaurant owner. Charles Durning played the mayor and Ann Wedgeworth played his wife. Despite some silliness, the cast is simply wonderful, first rate, perfectly casted to dispel stereotypes about Arkansas.
The series had a nice run but it could have lasted years with the talent on it's show. Reynolds and Jeter earned Emmy awards. There were plenty of Emmy nominations in the supporting actor and actress categories for the cast as well. They don't make shows like this anymore. This was a show of substance where they could be funny, clean, and learn something about life especially the children.
The only drawback is the lack of special features from 5 DVDs. It is still a beautifully crafted family oriented show with a first rate cast.
How can they NOT put out Seasons 2-4? It's ridiculous. One of the finest ensemble of actors and they're not going to keep their work alive? The studios are doing this over and over again. I don't get it!
Come on! Powers That Be --- PLEASE release the remaining seasons. You won't regret it. We need quality television to watch again. Evening Shade is quality.