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TV Reviews : ‘The Fourth Man’: A Tale of Steroids in the High School Locker Room

Today’s well-acted “CBS Schoolbreak Special: The Fourth Man” (at 3 p.m. on Channels 2 and 8) dramatizes the statistic that an estimated 7% or more of all high school athletes are on steroids.

Peter Billingsley (“A Christmas Story”), is Joey, the brainy, non-athletic son of a former football hero. Dad (Tim Rossovich), lukewarm to Joey’s intellectual triumphs, makes a big fuss over Joey’s best friend Steve (Vince Vaughn), a star athlete.

Joey, determined to please his father, decides to try out for the track team. He is fast enough to qualify, but the coach says he will have to work to stay on the team.

When weight training and a special diet don’t get quick results, a sports equipment store employee “helps” Joey with steroids.

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Soon, the drug’s side affects take their toll. Bouts of unreasonable anger dismay the people who care about him, his schoolwork suffers and, inevitably, a near-fatal collapse reveals his secret.

The script, by director Joanna Lee and Annie Caroline Schuler, is predictable, with strong, key emotional scenes between Joey and Steve and Joey and Dad, although you do wonder why Joey’s “smart” mom (Adrienne Barbeau) hasn’t set insensitive Dad straight.

But the pain comes across, and so do the pressures that so many school athletes find themselves under: peer and parent approval, the coach, the big win tied to a school’s prestige.


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