“Forgotten Sins” could be described as the network version of last year’ s HBO movie “Indictment: The McMartin Trial.”
A community, especially its police force, is eager to give credence to fantastic charges. Indirectly, television’s tendency toward hyperbole and sensationalism is under scrutiny. Deputy Sheriff Matthew Bradshaw (John Shea) and family reside in a hotbed of evangelical Christianity. In a timely sermon, their pastor tells his congregation to keep the devil in sight for defensive purposes.
Bradshaw is worried about the emotional distance between him and his two daughters, Rebecca (Lisa Dean Ryan) and Laura (T.C. Warner). At a religious retreat, Rebecca claims he has been molesting them. The accusations are taken very seriously by his brethren in the sheriff’s department.
More outlandish charges are leveled after Bradshaw is arrested. A visit from Pastor Ralph prompts him to confront his devilish side. Through a combination of soul-searching, leading questions and self-hypnosis he concocts memories that match the charges reeled off by the girls.
Everyone’s got Satan on the brain, and things snowball beyond belief. Two poker buddies are arrested and Bradshaw’s wife (Bess Armstrong) confesses to facilitating the rape of her daughters and to conducting human sacrifices. The susceptible sheriff attends the “Western States Conference on Ritual Sexual Abuse in America” and orders helicopter sweeps to look for Satanic burial grounds.
Inconsistencies in the stories force the prosecutor to call in an expert. Dr. Richard Ofshe, vigorously limned by William Devane sporting a goatee and looking like Lucifer himself, tries to make sense of everything.
The idea of an oversensitized but well-intentioned society committing injustices is convincingly laid out by writer T.S. Cook. The teleplay doesn’t account for the daughters’ motivations, however. Perhaps they resent dad’s tough love. It’s easier to see why an already guilty and religiously inclined father might admit to things under the pressure.
Material takes hold under fluid direction by Dick Lowry. Points are made definitively, though the drama tapers off once we know it’s all untrue. Tech credits are fine.
Thumbs up for the entire acting troupe for handling relatively complex emotions. Shea brings a scent of masochism to his bogus struggle to remember.