One of the great curmudgeon lines, found in one of Joe Orton’s plays, is that “no good deed goes unpunished.” You’re reminded of that while watching a determined ex-GI bring into his marriage an illegitimate Vietnamese daughter in “The Girl Who Came Between Them,” Sunday night at 9 on Channels 4, 36 and 39.
This fact-based drama, co-starring Cheryl Ladd and Anthony John Denison as the beleaguered married couple, dramatizes the struggle of a love child, an Amerasian girl (convincingly played by Melissa Chang) to adjust to life in America with her combat vet father and his increasingly threatened wife.
The material is the kind of ripe drama that television movies gobble up. The trouble is that lovers from the world’s front lines might have a twang of guilt recounting their own liaisons but not too many would want to change places with the father here, whose herculean efforts to do the right thing almost wrecks his life.
Denison’s character is representative of the young GI bedazzled by an Asian beauty and who ever after can’t keep the woman out of his imagination. In this case, although she’s supposedly dead, the poor fellow wills her back to life. That’s just great for Ladd’s staunch American wife, who’s at first supportive and then begins to wonder who she’s married to. Other twists render Audrey Davis Levin’s script an arabesque of irony and poetic justice.
Direction by Mel Damski is pedestrian and the story is slow to accelerate. But as a commentary on the residue of war and the melting culture pot that results, “The Girl Who Came Between Them” has the slap of credulity.