Children of the Dark" explores a bizarre disease whose sufferers live in the dark due to their extreme sensitivity to light. Strong lead acting and strange subject matter make the ratings prognosis look good for CBS, but the script suffers through bouts of anemia.

Children of the Dark” explores a bizarre disease whose sufferers live in the dark due to their extreme sensitivity to light. Strong lead acting and strange subject matter make the ratings prognosis look good for CBS, but the script suffers through bouts of anemia.

Peter Horton and Tracy Pollan carry the production as Jim and Kim Harrison, a seemingly average American couple with three children (one from a previous marriage). Kim doesn’t think twice about her daughters’ marked preference for staying indoors, although she must shoo them out constantly.

The older daughter is tripped up by the disease on a picnic when the bright sun nearly scorches her skin. After medical examination and a biopsy, the problem is discovered and the outlook is dim: The girls must live in darkened rooms or face skin cancer, blindness and even mental retardation. The disease is referred to in the telepic as “x.p.,” an abbreviation of xeroderma pigmentosum.

Director Michael Switzer keeps production moving even when the novelty of the sickness wears off. Writers Jeff Andrus, Charles Wilken and Janet Brownell weave an interesting story with plenty of hurdles as the family is literally run out of town after the kids become the focus of stares and hysteria.

However, when the idea of any cure is dashed, the plot wanders around with no end in sight, as they search for a place where they can be accepted.

Horton’s and Pollan’s characters go through guilt, self-pity and anger differently, which is really the focus of the telepic; the suffering daughters are props more than leads. But the chemistry between the parents feeds the picture through its leaner moments.

Roy Dotrice nicely plays Dr. Burnam, who doles out the reality for the couple.

Kees Van Oostrum’s camera work is crisp and sweeping, providing a boost at the right times.

Even though “Children of the Dark” has its dead spots, telepic is a gawker’s dream, with just the right topic to attract viewers.

Children of the Dark

(Sun. (17), 9-11 p.m., CBS)

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Steve Krantz Prods. in association with Multimedia Motion Pictures. Executive producers, Steve Krantz, Tony Etz; producer, Richard L. O'Connor; co-producer, Art Schaefer; director, Michael Switzer; writers, Jeff Andrus, Charles Wilkins, Janet Brownell.

Crew

Camera, Kees Van Oostrum; editor, Mark Rosenbaum; production designer, Leonard A. Mazzola; sound, Charles R. Beith; music, David Michael Frank.

Cast

Cast: Peter Horton, Tracy Pollan, Roy Dotrice, Natalija Nogulich, Eric Pierpoint, Sam Horrigan, Lindsey Haun, Annalise Ashdown, Ramon Bieri, Annie Corley, Mary Pat Gleason, Lenore Kasdorf, Glenn Morshower, Kenneth White, Virgil Frye, Daniel Collins, Dave Powledge, Olivia Virgil White, Susan Ware, Tom Kopache, Patricia Idlette, Elyse Donalson, Jana Arnold, Jesse Switzer, Lois De Banzie, Victor Dimattia, Adam Hendershott, Nicholas Weiland, Bradley Pierce, Anne O'Sullivan, Ashley Malinger.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more