Tony Danza is the drawing card, but it's Pamela Reed who takes home the chips in an urban drama about a downhome West Virginia family. Though it cheats viewers, the cornpone meller -- built around a surprise package tied up with convenient psychological ribbons -- will hold attention.

Tony Danza is the drawing card, but it’s Pamela Reed who takes home the chips in an urban drama about a downhome West Virginia family. Though it cheats viewers, the cornpone meller — built around a surprise package tied up with convenient psychological ribbons — will hold attention.

Salvage company owners Danza and Reed, married 20 years and blessed with three kids, worry about their 19-year-old daughter, who’s playing fast and loose-blouse with a married man. When she doesn’t come home one night, decent Danza and simple-minded Reed start their agonizing search until police sergeant Ving Rhames brings home a snapshot for them to ID.

Denying it’s their girl, they drag on the search until real proof is brought in. As an odd voice hits the soundtrack, word spreads that Danza is the killer. The cops pick him up, the two younger kids are tucked into a foster home, and writer Dennis Turner flicks back to a suffering Danza at 13 as he’s forced by his father to cut grass all night.

An opening sentence warns that the story is “suggested by actual events,” which doesn’t much matter. Danza, sporting a vaguely rural accent, plays the lead with an earnestness that begs to be believed; it isn’t.

Got up like a George Price cartoon, Reed burrows into the wife’s character with conviction. Heather Tom plays the daughter with sassiness. Camryn Manheim adds to the plain-values atmosphere as a helpful neighbor, while Rhames deals out quiet authority.

Director Bill Norton squeezes the script for every emotional drop he can get. The tech credits, including Stephen L. Posey’s straightforward lensing, are good , and Corey Kaplan’s production spells out countrified simplicity. Joe Conlan’s score fits just fine.

Deadly Whispers

(Sun. (26), 9-11 p.m., CBS)

Production

Filmed in Placerville by Hill/Fields Entertainment and ACI. Exec producers, Leonard Hill, Joel Fields; producers, Ardythe Goergens, Bernie Caulfield; director, Bill Norton; writer, Dennis Turner; based on book by Ted Schwartz.

Crew

Camera, Stephen L. Posey; editor, Hibah Sherif Frisina; production designer, Corey Kaplan; sound, Don Summer; music, Joe Conlan.

Cast

Cast: Tony Danza, Pamela Reed, Ving Rhames, Heather Tom, Sean Haberle, Camryn Manheim, Ellen Dubin, Sal Landi, Michael P. McCarthy, Amanda Fuller, Richard Gross, Maureen McVerry, Kevin Mason, Michael Foley, Fred D. Coleman, Rueben Grundy, David Schiro, Elizabeth Munziato, Darryl Dehart, Susan McCollom, Golden Henning.
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