A custody battle between a couple who never married results in California law redefining the term "parent" in the true-story-fictionalized "Thicker Than Blood: the LarryMcLinden Story." That groundbreaking court decision is hidden in a vidpic in which important points may have remained on the cutting-room floor.

A custody battle between a couple who never married results in California law redefining the term “parent” in the true-story-fictionalized “Thicker Than Blood: the LarryMcLinden Story.” That groundbreaking court decision is hidden in a vidpic in which important points may have remained on the cutting-room floor.

Securities broker McLinden (Peter Strauss) and Diane Middleton (Rachel Ticotin) are experiencing a rocky affair when Diane announces that she’s pregnant. “Is it mine?” asks Larry, who may not be too suave but may be, as it turns out, prescient.

When it’s discovered that infant Larry Jr. has traces of cocaine in his blood , the romance is over. Except Larry — now far more enthusiastic about parenthood — wants custody of the child, whom Diane has taken to Florida. Larry’s attorney (Lynn Whitfield) sues, and a custody arrangement is set up, which Diane soon breaks, explaining that her son needs more time with her. Then she marries David Meadows (Booth Savage), and tells Larry that the two will try to adopt Larry Jr.

As the fight drags on, Diane surprises everyone by suddenly claiming, contrary to everything she’d said before, that Larry is not the child’s biological father. Then things get really complicated.

Title and casting lead to belief that sympathy is supposed to be with McLinden, but in Judson Klinger’s diffuse script, Larry is dumb as a stump.

Some viewers may decide that the best choice would be for the court to assign Larry Jr. to a foster family. Instead, judge (Patricia Gage) comes up with a new term, “psychological father,” awarding Larry primary custody.

Everybody plays this in deadly earnest among generic Toronto locations. Michael Dinner’s rote direction shows no energy; tech credits are routine.

Thicker Than Blood: The Larry Mclinden Story

(Sun. (6), 9-11 p.m., CBS)

Production

Filmed in Toronto by Alexander/Enright & Associates. Executive producers, Dan Enright, Les Alexander; co-executive producer, Harvey Kahn; producer, Julian Marks; co-producer, Judson Klinger; director, Michael Dinner; script, Klinger.

Crew

Camera, Rene O'Hashi; editor, James Austin Stewart; production designer, Tony Hall; sound, Urmas Rosen; music, Johnny Harris.

Cast

Cast: Peter Strauss, Rachel Ticotin, Bob Dishy, Brenda Bazinet, Damir Andrei, Jacob Zelik Penn, Lynn Whitfield, Susan Hogan, Carolyn Dunn, John Robinson, Patricia Gage, Mark Wilson, Booth Savage, Maia Filar, Tara Charendoff, Gil Filar , Anthony Dean Rubes, Graham McPherson, Elizabeth Lennie, Marion Gilsenan, Ian Neeson, Sherry Miller, Suzanne Cyr, Victoria Snow, Janet Lo, T.W. Schroeder, John Nelles, Maureen MacRae, Ray Kahnert, Michael Gencher, Kevin Zegers, George Cox, Michelle Moffat, Jeffrey Snape.

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