"Forgotten Sins" could be described as the network version of last year' s HBO movie "Indictment: The McMartin Trial."

“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.

ABC Thursday Night Movie Forgotten Sins

Production

ABC Thursday Night Movie Forgotten Sins (Thurs. (7), 9:00-11:00 p.m., ABC) Filmed in Los Angeles by Patchett Kaufman Entertainment. Executive producer, Kenneth Kaufman; producer, Nancy Hardin; supervising producer, Ann Kindberg; director, Dick Lowry; writer, T.S. Cook.

Crew

Camera, Henry Lebo; editor, William B. Stich; production designer, Guy Barnes; art director, Chip Radaelli; sound, Richard Church; music, Mark Snow.

With

Cast: William Devane, John Shea, Bess Armstrong, Dean Norris, Brian Markinson, Lisa Dean Ryan, Tim Quill, Gary Grubbs, John M. Jackson, Ray McKinnon, Brandon Smith, T.C. Warner, Matthew Faison, Karla Tamburrelli, Julie Ariola, Jim Holmes, Norman Large, Roger Rook, Scot Armstrong , Milt Tarver, Randal Patrick, John Prosky, Warren Munson. As a rule, no sins are allowed to be forgotten on television. So the logic at work in this cogent telepic, based on ar- More reviews, page 76 ticles that appeared in the New Yorker magazine, is fitting. Thesins -- rape, incest, and Satanic human sacrifices -- are made up. They prove to be figments of the accused as well as the accusers' religiously overwrought imaginations.
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