Monday, December 02, 2013

A Fire In The Sky


NBC produced and aired A FIRE IN THE SKY in 1978. Director Jerry Jameson filmed the three-hour (with commercials) all-star disaster thriller in Arizona. It earned Emmy nominations for its special effects and sound editing.

Scientists Joanna Miles (THE GLASS MENAGERIE) and Richard Crenna (FIRST BLOOD) discover a comet is headed toward Earth on a collision course with Phoenix, Arizona. President of the United States Andrew Duggan (BOURBON STREET BEAT) leaves the decision of whether or not to evacuate to Governor Nicolas Coster (LOBO). Rich white men, including insurance magnate Lloyd Bochner (DYNASTY), sit around the Governor’s office discussing the financial ramifications of evacuating the state and deciding it will be cheaper to keep quiet.

Television station owner Elizabeth Ashley (THE CARPETBAGGERS) wants to know what’s going on, so she assigns young reporter Maggie Wellman (THE HARRAD EXPERIMENT) to vamp the info out of newspaper editor David Dukes (THE WINDS OF WAR), who just happens to be Ashley’s husband. On the outskirts of the main story are scout leader Merlin Olsen (LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE), taking his boys on a desert camping trip, and young lovers Michael Biehn (ALIENS) and Cindy Eilbacher’s plans to marry.

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE author Paul Gallico developed the story, which was massaged into teleplay form by Michael Blankfort (THE CAINE MUTINY) and Dennis Nemec (MURDER IN COWETA COUNTY). It’s a good script with suspense and rich characters that manages to remain interesting all the way through, as tight editing keeps the pace up despite the picture’s excessive length.

Expertly anchored by Crenna, who makes the scientific talk sound believable, A FIRE IN THE SKY saves its destruction for the end, where decent special effects overcome pedestrian direction by Jameson (AIRPORT ’77). A FIRE IN THE SKY aired during November sweeps, several months before the similar-but-worse METEOR played in theaters.

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