Times Television Critic

You ache for the two teen-agers who commit suicide in "Surviving." Later, you ache for yourself, having to endure this grueling ABC movie that is so bleak and depressing that watching it may seem almost pointless.

"Surviving," an "ABC Theater" presentation airing Sunday at 8 p.m. on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42, sets the stage for a suicide pact between two terribly lonely and unhappy teen lovers who receive no emotional sustenance from their affluent parents. By the time their fates are settled, though, you are simply too mentally ground down to deal with the problems of their surviving families.

TV movies are on a tragedy binge. So "Surviving" treads familiar ground, having been preceded this season by the teen suicide movie "Silence of the Heart" on CBS, as well as oodles of TV news reports on the subject. Even given the increase in teen suicides, what is there left to say?

Yet at two hours, instead of a swollen three, this could have been a good movie. Parts of the story are poignant and deeply affecting. And the performances--Zach Galligan and Molly Ringwald as the doomed teens and Ellen Burstyn and Len Cariou and Marsha Mason and Paul Sorvino as their parents--are excellent.

"Surviving" is superior to "Silence of the Heart" in some ways, particularly in laying a foundation for the suicides. The two teens see themselves as outsiders and draw strength only from each other.

But the oppressive length necessitates padding, resulting in compounded family calamities and repeated self-flagellation and recriminations by the survivors that are wearying, to say the least.

A movie for masochists.

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