Filmed in Southern California by Kushner Locke Prods. and Cates/Doty Prods. Executive producers, Gilbert Cates, Dennis E. Doty; supervising producer, Gy Waldron; producer, Doty; director, Cates; writer, Waldron, based on the book by Scott Whisnant and on court transcripts and interviews; camera, Mark Irwin; editor, Millie Moore; production designer, Lisa Smithline; sound, Bo Harwood; music, Charles Fox. TX:Cast: Rick Schroder, John Corbett, Tom Irwin, Howard Hesseman, Rue McClanahan, John P. Connolly, Liza Snyder, Don R. McManus, Leon Blossom, Sam Anderson, Gregory Itzin, Ben Browder, Chaka Forman, Ari Meyers, Hal Holbrook, Rondi Reed, Richard Fancy, Dean Norris, Kevin Scannel, Lisa Waltz, George Alvarez, Marilyn McIntyre, Tim Monision, Rutanya Alda, Chris Ellis, Glenn Morshower, Allan Wasserman, Joseph Brutsman, Gloria Carlin, Tony Collitti, Don Keefer, Deborah Strang, M. Darnell Suttles, Jessica Berlin, Philip Cates, Patricia Forte, Jack Gallagher, Linda Galloway, Gary Hollis, Gunther Jensen, Howard S. Miller, Steve O’Connor, Scott N. Stevens, Dierk Torsek, Alexander Zale , Stacy Edwards, Perry Moore, Tom Reynolds, J.G. Hertzler, Ann Walker, Walter Addison, Diane Amos, Amanda Carlin, Gil Cates Jr., Janet Eilber, Michael Leopard , Ralph Mayerling Jr., Michael Ashe, Todd Patrick Breaugh, Martin Cassidy, Ken Daly, Francia DiMase, Charles Daugherty, Bebe Drake, John Grantham, Roger Jackson, Kathy Molter, Ricki Leigh Nilles, Will Rothhaar, Douglas Stark, Philip Stewart, Rachel Winfree. Afour-hour dramatization of how one enigmatic soldier faced charges of rape and murder in 1985 North Carolina has the impact of a fictional drama while inspiring awe that it’s a true story (albeit slicked-up to grab attention). How those around the soldier, especially his father, stick by him, and how he sinks further and further into the morass would give pause to even the late mystery writer John Dickson Carr; once hooked, viewers won’t let this one go. Hennis’ alibi is suspect. His wife, Angela (Liza Snyder), had taken her daughter on an out-of-town jaunt because Hennis was busy with Army duties. He claims he was at home, but there’s a glitch: Seems he stopped by an old flame’s place.
Riding to the rescue is Tim’s father, Bob (Hal Holbrook), who hires the best lawyers available, though he and wife Marylou (Rue McClanahan) are strapped. Attorney Jerry Beaver (Tom Irwin) and associate Billy Richardson (Rick Schroder) take on the case as more circumstantial evidence piles up against Tim.
Witnesses are unreliable, afraid or indifferent; however, Billy, assigned to dig up stuff, pursues what he can. He hires a red-hot detective, D.B. Guiness (John P. Connolly), but the defense team is faced in part one by wily d.a. Steven Smithline (Howard Hesseman), who tampers with evidence, conceals facts and misleads Jerry and Billy.
Gy Waldron’s script pitches a multitude of names and situations
at viewers, as the stoic Tim fidgets in jail for four long years. Turns out the victim was getting anonymous calls; now, a witness refuses to testify because she’s getting warnings by phone. It becomes evident that Tim’s looks — tall, broad-shouldered, blond with a moustache — are not that unusual; at least two other men in the area answer the rundown.
The producers, director Cates, scripter Waldron, the cast and crew have blown up a giant balloon that indicates all sorts of possibilities — including a mention of the “Fatal Vision” murders, which took place nearby. After a careful, even slick, four-hour buildup, the balloon doesn’t so much explode as drift away.
But it’s compelling TV, and the principals and supporting players are all first-rate. Above-the-title Schroder, even in reading glasses and a tie and coat , looks too young, but puts in considerable energy; he’s often convincing. Corbett’s Tim is imposing, and Holbrook again turns in a winning perf. Hesseman’s d.a. is a shrewd eye-catcher, and Irwin’s suave Beaver hits the bell.
In the memorable department, Meyers’ odd babysitter and Forman’s mixed-up Breck top the list. Snyder shows particularly persuasive emoting in a part-two jail-house scene, and Connolly’s investigator is an acceptable stock character. McClanahan doesn’t have much to do but console Tim and wring her hands.
Rondi Reed’s scared newspaper deliverer, Lisa Waltz’s ex-g.f. and Tom Reynolds’ blank Tim look-alike add good support.
Southern California location subs for North Carolina sites are ingenious. Location manager Mike Jarvis and production designer Lisa Smithline have imaginatively covered the region from Fort MacArthur to Claremont’s Carnegie Library.
Mark Irwin’s camerawork is sharp. Millie Moore’s editing ably paces the drama , while Charles Fox has supplied a restrained, serviceable score.