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TV Reviews : Child-Abuse Drama Mirrors Sensational Case

Child abuse continues to occupy TV moviemakers.

This time, in “In the Best Interest of the Child” (at 9 p.m. Sunday on Channels 2 and 8), core elements of the story parallel the sensational Morgan-Foretich case. In that sorry affair, Elizabeth Morgan secretly sent her daughter, Hilary, into hiding and spent 25 months in jail for contempt rather than comply with a court order granting the girl’s father, Eric Foretich, unsupervised visitation. Morgan claimed that her former husband had molested Hilary.

Directed by David Greene, Sunday’s CBS movie finds similar circumstances haunting the fictional Coltons. Jennifer (Meg Tilly) and Walt (Michael O’Keefe) are divorced but amicable until one day when their small daughter, Mandy (Marta Woodward), returns from a visit with her father and tells her mother: “My daddy touches me.”

And we’re off, as evidence mounts that Walt is sexually abusing his daughter despite his emphatic denials. Unable to persuade the courts to rescind Walt’s visitation privileges, a desperate Jennifer flees with her daughter and is hidden by an underground organization set up to help parents in these matters.

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Jennifer is the story’s heroine. Although Hal Sitowitz’s script doesn’t come out and say it, Walt’s guilt is a foregone conclusion here, even though there is nothing on the surface to indicate he would molest his daughter.

The performances are good, and you ache for Mandy. Yet “In the Best Interest of the Child” lacks a dramatic edge and never finds a way to effectively merge its child-in-jeopardy theme with the larger issue of the courts being ill-equipped to deal with these kind of cases.


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