LIFE'S A BEACH, and then you die. That message echoes from "The Story of the Beach Boys: Summer Dreams" (9 p.m. Sunday on Channel 7).
Just as the group had to contend with the Beatles in the '60s, this movie has fierce competition -- the Fabulous Bakkers -- in NBC's "Fall From Grace" (9 p.m., Channel 2). Rock 'n' roll or televangelism? To each his own religion. Both tales have it all -- sex, drugs, psychology and music.
"Summer Dreams" is based on "Heroes and Villains: The True Story of the Beach Boys," the unauthorized biography by Steven Gaines, and focuses on the bad vibrations between meek Brian Wilson, his rebellious brother, Dennis, and their overbearing father.
It could have been called "Daddy Dearest" or maybe "Dennis' Song." Pipe-smoking father Murry Wilson (Arlen Dean Snyder) is a musician who wants to make his sons' music after his own image. A dutiful son with the most musical talent, Brian finally rebels. A rebel without a pause, Dennis is out to have fun, fun, fun with as many women as possible even if daddy takes his drums away. Brother Carl and cousin Mike Love have little to do.
Told in flashback after Dennis' drowning, "Summer Dreams" moves at a pace about equal to Dennis' attention span with women. Dennis is surfing at the beach with his latest conquest when Frankie Avalon meets him in a sweater and penny loafers. No, it isn't Frankie, it's Brian.
Soon the boys are in their convertible at a burger joint, disparaging a Jan and Dean hit. Shy Brian admires a girl in the next car who looks like Goldie Hawn. Dennis calls her over and quickly wins her favor.
Dennis arrives home to overhear Dad sing a discordant tune to his other sons about what a goofball Dennis is.
When the parents vacation, the Boys rent instruments, Brian writes his first surf hit, and Dad returns aghast.
"Hey, Dad, why don't you listen to the song? You might like it," says Dennis.
Dad's review: "It is loud, crass, that's the kind of song I'd never listen to. But it has definitely got possibilities."
The group's unbending manager, Dad, doesn't understand "In My Room," and calls "Fun, Fun, Fun" immoral and wants it killed. It is a good thing he wasn't Mick Jagger's papa.
Brian eventually cracks from Papa's pressure. There is as much a need for deep analysis here as there is in the Beach Boys' songs.
Scenes barely seconds apart cover years of their lives, inevitably followed by a song (which isn't sung by the Boys).
It is clear that Dennis and Brian rarely had good vibrations at the same time. Brian would be on drugs when Dennis was off, or vice versa.
There also is a confusing scene in which Charles Manson (in a terrible fake beard) walks into Dennis' life. It begs for more explanation.
The only thing that saves the cliched movie from being a total washout is Bruce Greenwood's performance as Dennis. He gives the fallen idol a swagger and underlining sensitivity that almost makes you forgive his excesses.
As Brian, Greg Kean paints a bland portrait of an artist who turns to drugs and becomes an overweight Beach Ball and a zombie.
Characters move in and out at the speed of California waves, but the only other actor to make an impression is Linda Dona, who plays one of Dennis' former wives, Karen Lamm (who was a film consultant).
"Summer Dreams" is loud, crass, silly and disjointed. But it definitely has ratings possibilities.
Rating: 2 stars out of 5.
"Fall From Grace" is unintentionally fun, fun, fun. Kevin Spacey and Bernadette Peters star in this authorized version of the Fabulous Bakkers, which starts as Jim, eh, meets Jessica Hahn.
Since their fall was more recently played on a wider national stage, it is almost impossible to act more ludicrous than the real-life Jim and Tammy Faye. And it is impossible to care about them.
At the start, Spacey reminds you more of a "Saturday Night Live" imitation of Bakker and sounds more like Dana Carvey's Church Lady. Far too physically imposing, Spacey resembles Bakker's nemesis Jimmy Swaggart more than Bakker. Spacey also is too stiff to be a successful televangelist.
In one scene, Peters actually looks more like Jessica Hahn than Tammy Faye. The film is much kinder to Tammy than to Jim. Peters has a better voice than Tammy and she's a better actress. She makes Tammy a sympathetic character who desperately tries to keep her marriage and family together while Jim ignores constant warnings that his house isn't in order. There also is a delicious send-off of a two-faced Jerry Falwell. But apart from occasional laughs, "Fall From Grace" falls flat on its face.
Rating: 2 stars.