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TV REVIEW : Mom Is an Alcoholic in ‘Just Tipsy, Honey’

“No one in my family talks,” 16-year-old Patty says in today’s “ABC Afterschool Special.” The reason? Patty’s mother is an alcoholic and won’t admit it, her father is into heavy denial, and Patty is trapped in the cover-up.

In “Just Tipsy, Honey,” airing at 3 p.m. on Channels 7, 3 and 42, a quietly effective hour written by producer Martin Tahse and Linda Bergman, teen-agers are shown that their own survival is what counts; an alcoholic parent is not their responsibility.

Ellie Cornell is Patty--reserved, well dressed, a conscientious student--whose father (Lyman Ward) is in real estate renovation and moves the family around a lot. He refuses to admit Patty’s mother (Joanna Pettet) has a drinking problem. “Alcoholics are bums on the street,” Mom says, and Dad agrees.

When her mother comes to school drunk to pick her up and Patty’s gym coach won’t let the shamed girl get in the car, a sympathetic teen-ager (Jon Matthews) introduces Patty to Alateen, a support group for teen-aged children of alcoholics.

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Realistically, there is no sudden happy ending here, only Patty’s tentative steps toward her own recovery and her refusal to be a victim.

Robert C. Thompson directs the able cast with restraint; the crisis is not in one big moment but in the everyday pain eating away trust and self-esteem.

Pettet’s drunkenness is not epic; it’s only sad and ugly, while Cornell’s agony is not hysterical; instead we just see the doors closing inside. Red-haired Matthews is especially appealing as her Alateen connection who is farther down the road to emotional well-being.

This isn’t Tahse’s first involvement with an Alateen theme. “Just Tipsy, Honey” is a thoughtful variation on an excellent “ABC Afterschool Special” he produced in 1976, “Francesca, Baby,” which by coincidence will be playing on the Showtime cable channel five times in April.

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