TV Reviews : 'The Price She Paid': Ugly, Schlocky, Silly

Good taste takes a holiday with "The Price She Paid," a made-for-TV thriller so ugly, so silly and filled with such staggering implausibilities that it could easily qualify as low camp if it didn't deal with a subject so inherently unlaughable--rape. (This prime exemplar of trash television airs tonight at 9 on CBS, Channels 2 and 8.)

Every development in this ludicrous plot seems to carry its own tabloid-ian exclamation point: A convicted rapist (Anthony John Denison), freed from prison after 10 years, shows up in the life of his victim (Loni Anderson), demanding visitation rights to the son he sired that fateful night!

"I've got the same rights as any other father does!" he tells the judge--who grants 'em! Victim's son, best gal-pal and even her current boyfriend begin to favor the rehabilitated, paternal rapist over her! But he's really a vengeful psycho killer!

And, by the way, Loni Anderson has lips like Julia Roberts now!

It's even worse than it sounds. The awesomely lowbrow script by Robert Foster and Phil Penningroth has the madman in question carefully weaving a "Hand That Rocks the Cradle"-style web of intrigue to ruin Anderson's life--undermining her credibility, stealing her son's affection, sleeping with her best friend (Candy Clark at her most dingbatty), etc. But then it turns out that all he plans to do in the end is stab her. Huh?

And while we all know of cases in which rape victims get little sympathy, the fact that no one in Anderson's circle seems the slightest bit concerned that this nice new guy in town once cut their friend up with a blade while violating her--and, in fact, they all buddy up to the perpetrator instead--pushes the edge of the credibility envelope into some distant galaxy previously unexplored by cynical TV writers.

Speaking of perpetrators, Fred Walton directed, drawing pitiable performances from the entire hapless cast, and ending the piece post-bloodbath with a paranoiac public-service scroll warning viewers about lax rapists' rights. If you can swallow that this cliche-packed, hypocritical thriller schlock has anything to do with the real trauma of real victims, consider yourself violated, too.

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