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TV REVIEW : ‘Armed’ With a Message

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Although devoid of style and burdened with undistinguished performances, the anti-gun drama “Armed and Innocent” (at 9 tonight on CBS, Channels 2 and 8) still packs a stinging theme: the psychological price of keeping guns in the home.

Starring Gerald McRaney and Kate Jackson as a complacent, conventional middle-class couple raising two kids in a pretty house in the country, the production is salvaged by its fresh look at the tragic effects of stashing weapons in the closet and the bureau drawer. In Danielle Hill’s teleplay, directed by Jack Bender, the entitled “armed and innocent” is the family’s 11-year-old son (Andrew Starnes), who loses his innocence in a moment of domestic terror.

Raised by McRaney’s otherwise devoted but gun-obsessed, macho dad to prize guns and hunt animals in the nearby woods, the boy is turned into a reluctant hero when he frantically surprises two burglars in his living room while home alone watching TV one afternoon after school. Instead of sensibly hiding in his room, he nervously loads his rifle and pumps the shocked, unarmed burglars full of deadly fire.

It’s a hair-raising sequence that unleashes a host of emotional and social demons for the boy, whose shallow parents are too proud of their son’s “heroism” and too thick-headed to cope with his subsequent depression and suppressed nightmares. Instead, it’s up to a sensitive Vietnam vet neighbor (Cotter Smith) to convince the youth (and Jackson’s finally awakened mom) of the importance of seeking help in order to unleash the turmoil pressed upon him by a world that wants to pin a medal on him.

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As a portrait of a preteen boy warped by adults with a gun-toting mentality, this is a story that could profitably be distributed to schools and parent groups.


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