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Michael Warren Creates Show His Children Can Watch

July 12, 1988

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Michael Warren says he came up with the idea for a show called ″Home Free″ because his children were too young to watch him in the gritty police drama, ″Hill Street Blues.″

″I was on ‘Hill Street’ for seven years,″ he said, playing Officer Bobby Hill, ″and my children never really got a chance to see it. Maybe it’s my ego, but I wanted to do something they could see and enjoy.

″I remember one day my son’s class had career day. They asked him what I did and he said actor. But he didn’t know what I did. My daughter’s 11, and my son’s 9, and ‘Hill Street’ came on too late and was too real.″

In ″Home Free,″ which NBC will air Wednesday, Warren plays a construction company executive who becomes the foster father of four boys. A Navy buddy, played by Trinidad Silva, takes over the cooking and looks after the boys, a group of street kids, black and white.

While he was filming the one-hour pilot, Warren brought the dailies home for his daughter, Kao, and son, Cash, to watch.

″I knew I was on to something when my daughter learned all the lines and wanted pictures of the boys,″ he said. ″My son, with typical sibling rivalry, was looking for some way to get even with her and put tacks in the pictures.″

Warren teams up again with MTM Enterprises which produced ″Hill Street.″ David Milch, a producer and writer on ″Hill Street,″ is executive producer of ″Home Free″ and co-wrote the script with John Romano, based on a concept by Warren. Mark Tinker directed.

The show was passed over as a series for the fall season, but if it gets a high rating it may be picked up as a midseason replacement. Warren says he is enthusiastic about the show’s chances.

″This is a rare opportunity for the public to choose a show they can watch,″ he said.

″The idea for the show is that every family goes through change. The kids I take in have been through a lot of change, all negative. In my household they experience the first stability, loving and caring they’ve had. One of the older boys has reached an age when he has to leave, and I have to make the younger kids understand it’s time for him to leave. We present the idea of change being for the better.″

Warren says he sent a videocassette of the pilot to John Wooden, the retired UCLA basketball coach. Warren had played for Wooden in his years there.

″John is the embodiment of what America’s all about,″ he said. ″He loved the show. He’s not a big fan of television. But he also understood the message of ‘Home Free,’ which is change and growth. He was family to me, so I want him to see things I’ve done and appreciate it. I know he saw ‘Hill Street Blues’ once or twice because I was on it, but it wasn’t his kind of program.″

Warren at first considered a career in pro basketball. ″I was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics,″ he said. ″They sent me a contract in the mail. It was mimeographed with a place for me to write in my name. I felt like it could have been addressed to ‘occupant.’

″I felt I’d already proved myself as a basketball player. They wanted me to try out, and if I was accepted they’d pay me $10,000. I didn’t know what I’d do with all that money, so I declined.″

Warren began his acting career in commercials. He had several stage roles and was in the movie ″Butterflies Are Free.″ He was a guest star in a number of series before becoming a regular in the 1974 NBC series ″Sierra″ as Park Service Ranger P.J. Lewis, and in CBS 1979 show ″Paris″ as Officer Willie Miller.

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Elsewhere in television:

FIRST IMPRESSIONS - Comedian Brad Garrett, starring in his first television series, heads the cast for the CBS summer series ″First Impressions.″ It will make its debut Aug. 27. Garrett plays a creative partner in a company that makes radio commercials. The show also stars James Noble, Thom Sharp, Sarah Abrel, Ruth Kobart and Brandy Gold.

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