True-life-based teen murder story out of California's San Fernando Valley gets TV movie treatment--it's already been fodder for tabloid TV outlets--and fares well with couple of finely layered central performances.

True-life-based teen murder story out of California’s San Fernando Valley gets TV movie treatment–it’s already been fodder for tabloid TV outlets–and fares well with couple of finely layered central performances.

Indeed, story, credited to Christopher Lofton with script by Lofton, John Miglis and director Charles Robert Carner, is the stuff tabs thrive on: Two jealous teen girls kill another because one thinks she’s trying to take her boyfriend and the other wants to take dead girl’s place in family.

It’s also the stuff TV increasingly feeds on, jaded public devours and, as a bite of societal commentary on all levels, it leaves a fearful aftertaste, especially with closing tag card: “The people portrayed … were subsequently convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in a state penitentary. First parole hearing will be July 1997.” Makes one shudder and ask, after such a senseless act and cold calculation, why?

Single mother Patty Duke is the mom all the kids want and come to with problems. She’s understanding and fair. Beautiful and popular daughter Tiffani-Amber Thiessen is best friends with overweight-unwed teen mom Margaret Welsh.

Welsh and third “best friend” Angie Rae MacKinney lure Thiessen to mountains and kill her. Coldly manipulative Welsh moves in with Duke to become substitute daughter and impede police investigation, headed by Lt. Loretta Swit, who doggedly sees case through with compassion.

Lofton, Miglis and Carner focus story on Duke and Welsh characters, the cat-and-mouse game, revealing in pieces whodunit but without suspense. Carner’s direction is effective, best with performers.

Duke gets to the pain of parent losing child, makes you feel the loss, hurt and rage. Welsh realizes coldly amoral, manipulative character in a solid turn. Swit makes the most of a pretty standard character.

Tech credits are fine.

Cbs Tuesday Movie a Killer Among Friends

(Tues. (8), 9-11 p.m., CBS-TV)

Production

Filmed in Canada by Bonnie Raskin Prods. in association with Green/Epstein Prods. Inc. and Lorimar Pictures. Exec producers, Jim Green Allen Epstein, Bonnie Raskin; producer, Mark Bacino; supervising producer, Matthew O'Connor; director, Charles Robert Carner; writers, Christopher Lofton, John Miglis, Carner, based on a story by Lofton.

Crew

Camera, Richard Leiterman; editor, David Blangated; art director, Clyde Klotz; sound, Rick Patton; music, Richard Bellis; production designer, Richard Wilcox.

Cast

Cast: Patty Duke, Margaret Welsh, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Angie Rae MacKinney , David Cubitt, Janne Mortil, Loretta Swit, Debra Sharkey, Ben Bass, Chad Todhunter, William Taylor, Babs Chula, Matt Bennett, Heather & Sharon Beatty, Barry Pepper, Lisa Vultaggio, Jacques LaLonde, Catherine Lough, Rene Mankuma, Charles Andre, Alfonso Quijada.
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