No more Mr. Nice Guy for Robert Urich--not in the miniseries "Blind Faith."
Urich is convincing and disturbing as Rob Marshall, one of those men neighbors see as a model husband and father--until his wife is killed, and he is suspected of having arranged the hit.
"Blind Faith," which airs on NBC next Sunday and the following Tuesday, is based on the bestseller by Joe McGinniss, whose "Fatal Vision" did well for NBC in miniseries treatment.
The Marshall family--Rob, Maria (played by Joanna Kerns) and their three sons--live in happily ever-after style in the affluent New Jersey town of Tom's River. Rob is an insurance salesman, outgoing, popular, a great guy for playing with his sons or running a charity auction.
On television, all this sweetness and light can't last. It is either the prelude to terminal illness or terrible crime.
Sure enough, Marshall and Maria are returning from Atlantic City when he pulls off the road, complaining of car trouble. He gets out to check a tire, is hit over the head and struck unconscious. When he awakes, his wife is dead, a bullet through her back. As the clouds of sympathy dissipate, his story begins to unravel. He has a mistress, gambling debts and $1.5 million in insurance on his wife's life.
"Blind Faith" focuses not only on the crumbling of Marshall's genial image but on his sons, who are faced with the suspicion that the father they loved arranged the murder of the mother they adored.
On March 6, 1986, Marshall was sentenced to death by lethal injection. He has appealed and remains on death row in Trenton, N.J.
"I have a feeling I was a late, last-minute reserve sent in to play Rob," Urich said. "I think they had a deal with Donald Sutherland and at the last minute, he decided he couldn't do it or a film commitment was switched around.
"I was in the woods of Minnesota hunting grouse. They faxed the script to the Ford dealership--I think it was the only fax in town. I read it overnight, said yes on Thursday, and the following Monday I was on the witness stand having a nervous breakdown."