'Brooklyn Bridge' shows a deft touch in both writing, acting


"Brooklyn Bridge" is "The Wonder Years" for the 1950s. It's sweet, sad, nostalgic and hopeful. It's a coming-of-age novel for the age of television. It's a winner.

Instead of middle-class suburbia, "Brooklyn Bridge," premiering at 8 tonight on WBAL-TV (Channel 11), takes place in an all-Jewish apartment building in Brooklyn. In place of the Arnolds -- a nuclear family of mother, father and kids -- we have the Bergers and the Silvers -- an extended family of grandpa, grandma, mother, father and kids.

But whether it's the suburbs or the city -- or the Mississippi River of Mark Twain's Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, for that matter -- the passage into and through adolescence is what fascinates and ** resonates.

The world here is seen through the eyes of 14-year-old Alan Silver, played with a near-perfect blend of pluck and vulnerability by Danny Gerard. Alan has a smart mouth, but he's not a smart-aleck. He has a good heart and happens to be a lot more sensitive than he lets on. (Yeah, he is a lot like Kevin Arnold.)

Because both parents work, the dominant force in his life is his grandmother (Marion Ross), with whom he carries on an almost non-stop badinage of irritation and love. It goes like this:

"What do you want for breakfast?"

"What are the choices?"

"Blintzes, cream of wheat, eggs, french toast, bagels, herring, waffles or oatmeal."

"That's all?"

In tonight's one-hour pilot, Alan meets and falls hard for a girl -- an Irish girl in white blouse, plaid skirt and knee socks from a Catholic school. A scene where Alan and his friends meet the girl and some of her friends at a bus stop is the best single scene of the new fall season. The air between Alan and the girl seems to tingle with the excitement of possibility and the ache of uncertainty.

"Family Ties" creator Gary David Goldberg is the force behind "Brooklyn Bridge." He also wrote tonight's episode, and should win an Emmy for it -- heck, two Emmys just for the scene between Alan and the girl.

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