TV Reviews : Mother Knows Best in Taut 'Mother's Day'

The Christian Broadcasting Network-owned CBN Family Channel airs its first made-for-cable movie, "Mother's Day," today at 5 p.m. and again Sunday at 4 p.m. Any anxiety that the production would be laced with piety and roses is quickly dismissed in the opening scene.

Three white teen-agers drive into a tough neighborhood to buy drugs, and one of the youths is sliced up like a melon by a black pusher. Arrested and jailed for the murder is a hard-working, affable, college-bound kid, strongly played by Malcolm-Jamal Warner (Theo Huxtable on "The Cosby Show").

Denise Nichols, in what is probably her most rigorous and passionate performance to date, portrays the suspect's determined mother, battling a stacked deck of evidence incriminating her 19-year old son in the drug-related killing. Bernie Casey, as the family's middle-class breadwinner, is saddled with a hapless, passive role, and does little to redeem it. This is the wife's story all the way.

Inspired by a true incident, the production is flavorfully supported by Jose Ferrer's salty judge, Joe Lambie's coarse detective, and the brassy public defender duo of Greg Salata and Melba Moore.

If not notable television, the production is a promising movie kickoff for The Family Channel, competently rendered by writer B.W. Sandefur and producer-director Susan Rohrer. The spare spiritual touches are credibly buried in the plot except once when an Easter service vocal ("Were You There When They Crucified My Boy?") hits you over the head.

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