Review: ‘Fox Night at the Movies Rise & Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story’

Fox wades firmly into network nighttime drama territory, but it goes the big boys one better with this well-written, interest-capturing true-life tale with something for everyone, and in just the right proportions.

Fox wades firmly into network nighttime drama territory, but it goes the big boys one better with this well-written, interest-capturing true-life tale with something for everyone, and in just the right proportions.

Viewers in search of the athletes overcoming adversity proferred between the competitions during the Olympics will find plenty to like about this brisk, two-hour presentation.

Based on the book chronicling the recovery of New York Jets linebacker Dennis Byrd following his vertebrae-crushing encounter on the playing field, the perfectly paced story traces the lineman’s journey from small-town beginnings to rising NFL star.

Peter Berg, who plays Byrd, deftly communicates his character’s agony, yet captures the hope of a total recovery, with a fluid reading of a man down but by no means out. Berg perfectly punctuates the emotional ups and downs, without ever assuming a sloppy, melodramatic stance.

A strong perf from Kathryn Morris as Byrd’s wife, Angela, helps to hold the story together as she offers reassurance and comfort, while still kicking some butts around the hospital to help accelerate her husband’s recovery.

Inspirational and motivational, the story never resorts to nighttime soap chicanery, its well-rounded cast weighing in with solid performances. The lack of marquee stars speaks volumes about the show’s intentions.

Scripting triumvirate Sally Nemeth, John Miglis and Mark Levin weave a story fraught with triumph and tragedy, and loaded with credibility.

The trio keeps the story moving by alternating between flashback and present, never belaboring any aspect too long.

While the rehabilitation scenes may cause some observers to grimace, the light touch to the scenes contributed by Johann Carlo, who plays Joanne Giametti — Byrd’s physical therapist — keeps the mood from getting too bogged down in cheap sentimentality.

The show’s finale — where Byrd walks out of the hospital — is set up by a gripping encounter between him and the therapist, and is among program’s best moments.

Director Michael Dinner ably captures the sound and fury of the game, while smoothly guiding the cast through the development of some of the story’s gentler moments.

Fox Night at the Movies Rise & Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story

(Mon (28), 8-10 p.m., Fox)

Production

Filmed in Oklahoma City, Okla., by Fox West Pictures Inc. Executive producers , Rick Schaeffer, Joe Dietz; producers, Paul Kurta, Michael Dinner; director, Michael Dinner; script, Sally Nemeth, John Miglis, Mark Levin.

Crew

Camera, Tim Suhrstedt; production designer, Virginia Randolph; sound, Skip Frazee; editor, James Austin Stewart; music, W.G. Snuffy Walden.

Cast

Cast: Peter Berg, Kathy Morris, Johan Carlo, Wolfgang Bodison, Carrie Snodgress, R. Lee Ermey, Zakes Mokae, Steve Fitchpatrick, Patrick Warburton, McKenzie Smith, Dan Lauria, James Troesch, Ryan Slater, Brent O'Plotnik, Jay Michael Ferguson, Johnny Judkins, David Harrod, Steve Anderson, William Forward, Dennis Howard, Allan Royal, Richie Allan, Bert Remsen, Matthew Tompkins, David Eversole, Juli Erickson, Larry Flynn, Mitch Jelniker, Reverend McNab, Walker Randell, Allan Graf, David Allen, Reese Morrison, Ryan Phillips, Keith Warrior, Nathan Wooten, William Pulley, Wanda Wooley.
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