Review: ‘The Disappearance of Vonnie’

Crime drama by Ellen Weston, based on a true case, gives Ann Jillian, as Corrine Kaczmarek, a good shot at a semi-scary mystery, and she comes through with honors. The flat spots along the way, also thanks to Weston's teleplay, leave questions dangling, but Jillian and director Graeme Campbell plunge right ahead; the vidpic's a sure crowd-gatherer.

Crime drama by Ellen Weston, based on a true case, gives Ann Jillian, as Corrine Kaczmarek, a good shot at a semi-scary mystery, and she comes through with honors. The flat spots along the way, also thanks to Weston’s teleplay, leave questions dangling, but Jillian and director Graeme Campbell plunge right ahead; the vidpic’s a sure crowd-gatherer.

Right off the bat, viewers know that Ron Pickman (played cunningly by Joe Penny) has just been released from a mental hospital. Jump forward five years, and Ron meets Corrine’s sister Vonnie (Kim Zimmer). Seven years later, Vonnie and Ron are married and raising daughter Amy (Alexandra Purvis). He spends a lot of time instructing a police program for teenagers, and Vonnie’s taken to drink; it’s never clear how good Vonnie’s character really is.

The sisters are close, even live across the street from each other, and Corrine sees how Ron neglects Vonnie and Amy. Vonnie, knowing nothing of Ron’s past, vanishes without a word to Corrine.

Corrine, not buying a story Ron tells about the disappearance, starts her quest to find out what happened to her sister. Ron, still training teens in police methods, has a cadet, Janine (Alicia Witt), at his house taking care of Amy.

Vidpic stacks the deck against Ron, presumably because of the outcome in real life. Viewers could wonder how guilty he is. There’s no body, no evidence. After establishing that he was once put away in a mental house for killing two men, the script never says anything about Ron’s early life. Even his relationship with Janine is suspect until the right dramatic moment.

Hedged in by reality, the drama lacks answers to such questions. But Jillian gives an earnest, successful perf, and Penny works staunchly and believably through his mad charmer role. Zimmer’s Vonnie is strong, and Witt is terrif as Janine.

Filmed in Vancouver, vidpic looks lovely, and tech credits are solid.

The Disappearance of Vonnie

(Tues. (27), 9-11 p.m., CBS)

Production

Filmed in Vancouver by Morrow/Heus Prods. and TriStar TV. Exec producers, Richard Heus, Barry Morrow; co-exec producer, Paul A. Kaufman; producer, Joel S. Rice; director, Graeme Campbell; writer, Ellen Weston.

Crew

Camera, Richard Leiterman; editor, Millie Moore; art director, Jim Cordeiro; music, Richard Bellis.

Cast

Cast: Ann Jillian, Joe Penny, Kim Zimmer, Robert Wisden, Graham Beckel, Alexandra Purvis, Gerry Chalk, Alicia Witt, Travis MacDonald, Jerry Wasserman, Gabrielle Miller, Robert Clothier, Marlowe Dean, Aidan Pendleton, Jennifer Meyer , Tom Butler, Lorena Gale, Nathaniel Deveaux, Kate Robbins, Dave Cameron, Robin Douglas, Eric Keenleyside, Fulvio Cecere, Alan Buckley, Curtis Bechdholt, Trish Allen, Don Thompson, Oliver Hooker, Roger R. Cross, Celine Lockhart, Rhys Huber, Victoria Brooks.
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