Review: ‘Web of Deception’

Ashrink finds himself in deep trouble when he's framed for murder in "Web of Deception," competently made TV movie that's absurd even by the lower credibility standards typical of psychological thrillers.

Ashrink finds himself in deep trouble when he’s framed for murder in “Web of Deception,” competently made TV movie that’s absurd even by the lower credibility standards typical of psychological thrillers.

In the vidpic, directed by Richard A. Colla and scripted by Nevin Schreiner, Philip Benesch (Powers Booth) is a psychiatrist with a daily consulting relationship with the police, a pistol in his office desk drawer and a marriage that he’s trying against odds to save.

A young woman (Lisa Collins) won’t take “I don’t want you to bother me anymore” as an answer; she follows him around, writes him mash notes, even drops by the house on his daughter’s birthday.

But Benesch doesn’t tell his wife (Pam Dawber) what’s going on, and only threatens to seek a restraining order against the girl.

She commits suicide, staging it to appear that she and the psychiatrist were having an affair and that he killed her.

His alibi is thin: A unrecognized woman’s voice invited him to the home of a fellow shrink and former inamorata (Rosalind Chao), who wasn’t there but who keeps her old love letters where patients can find them.

Still, he’s not suspicious. Former g.f. Chao had been treating a suicidal female patient who wore a wig but doesn’t find that worth telling the police.

Not that it would have helped; the constabulary, led by dunderheaded detectives Francinetti (Paul Ben-Victor) and bulldog Helen Greer (Robin Karfo), all too easily believe that their long-time associate killed the girl.

Also suspecting the worst are his wife, shrink friend (Jarion Monroe) and his kids; when he protests, the daughter asks, “Then how come they arrested you?” In any other family, she would be old enough to know better.

Boothe gives his usual clench-jawed delivery, and everybody else plays along as if this all made sense.

The final courtroom scenes manage to bring in seemingly every cliche of the genre.

There are hints of a darker, more interesting plot: police consultant finding himself having to use a defense he routinely debunks. Maybe next time.

Web of Deception

(Mon. (25), 9-11 p.m., NBC)


Filmed in San Jose and San Francisco by Morgan Hill Films in association with Hearst Entertainment. Executive producer, Jennifer Alward; producer, Carol Trussell; co-producers, Nevin Schreiner, Fran Bell; director, Richard A. Colla; script, Nevin Schreiner.


Camera, James L. Carter; editor, Michael S. Murphy; production designer, Linda Allen; sound, Jay Patterson; music, Bob Alcivar.


Cast: Powers Boothe, Pam Dawber, Lisa Collins, Paul Ben-Victor, Rosalind Chao , Brian Markinson, Jarion Monroe, Anni Long, Bradley Whitford, Abigail Van Alyn, Robin Karfo, Victor Talmadge, L. Peter Callender, Rebecca Wink, Juliette Marshall, Elena Praskin, Jennifer Founds, Ed Hooks, Diane Amos, Bob Sarlatte, Connie Colla.

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