ABC's "Sexual Advances"(airing at 9 p.m. Sunday on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42) is about as artistically subtle as the headline news. The subject matter alone, however sexual harassment in the workplace--is volatile enough here to make everyone squirm.
Stephanie Zimbalist earns high marks for convincingly registering emotional confusion and humiliation in her victim's role. She plays Paula, a rising young executive whose career and happy marriage are suddenly threatened by an insecure male co-worker.
The despicable Jack (William Russ has the thankless role) starts using crude sexual advances to diminish Paula's growing success, and their boss (Terry O'Quinn) brushes off her complaints by saying she has to learn to handle the "jerks." "You're in the big leagues now," he tells her.
Michele Gallery's script, directed by Donna Deitch, wastes no time on ambiguities. Paula works for a sports shoe company dominated by a jock mentality. Her husband (Patrick James Clarke) is unemployed. The office buzzes about her supposed affair, her husband rages and when Paula considers filing an official complaint, she's labeled a troublemaker.
She must be aware of the "effect she has on men," she's told. If she makes waves, a female executive says, she'll be seen as a "loser" and she worries about being disloyal to the company.
The powers-that-be close ranks behind Jack, but privately there's contempt for his poor judgment. The boss, who had seen Jack as the corporate "alpha male," says, "You think you got a great ape and you end up with a monkey boy."
The movie is sure to trigger an emotional response, whatever your take on the subject. In the interest of domestic tranquillity, you may want to watch it alone.