What might have been an action-driven suspenser about a woman hiding from her double-dealing, dangerous hubby instead sags into a flabby, stylized teleplay that goes phfft. Written by Karen Black without much pizzazz, and directed adequately by Alan Metzger with some tense moments that do help, "Circle of Deceit" mostly chases its shadows.

What might have been an action-driven suspenser about a woman hiding from her double-dealing, dangerous hubby instead sags into a flabby, stylized teleplay that goes phfft. Written by Karen Black without much pizzazz, and directed adequately by Alan Metzger with some tense moments that do help, “Circle of Deceit” mostly chases its shadows.

Lovely Terry (Dana Wynter-type beauty Janine Turner), married to sneaky mouthpiece Jeff (Esai Morales), thinks she’s got a blissful marriage, what with their small son (Matthew Prior) and affluence all over the place. Trouble is, Jeff’s playing around, as she finds out, and she also spots him working a shady deal. What’s more, shrugging her off, he turns nasty, and, wow!, boots her and the boy out of their fancy digs.

Her mother, legal expert Elaine (Joanna Cassidy), who really isn’t much help, tries bucking her up, as does her red-headed chum Donna (Tracy Griffith) — or so she thinks. Not surprisingly, seems Jeff hasn’t been straying far from the henhouse — beauteous Donna’s his willing nest-mate, even as she shares her apartment with Terry.

Janine, poking around in ugly places, learns about Donna and about a whole lot of things. There’s a pip of a moment when Janine, turning, sees a masked man watching her through a window; the scene works. Jeff, who has no-nonsense enforcer Walker (Dean Wray) at his disposal, arranges for Walker to meet with unsuspecting Janine to make it look like she’s planning Jeff’s death.

Now, she’s really sore. She works out her own disappearance, blaming hot-tempered Jeff and Donna. Her so-bright mom’s baffled. There’s a poignant scene in which the boy, spotting his hidden mom at an amusement park, calls out for her. It’s another scene that resounds.

The vidpic doesn’t go in much for subtlety, though Morales as angry Jeff displays several variations. Turner’s Terry has got her damsel-in-distress role down pat and makes it attractive, and Griffith’s Donna is pretty and peppy. Cassidy doesn’t have any demand on her con-siderable talents. Wray’s Walker’s convincing.

Telepic looks good through Ron Stannett’s creative camera lens, and Sydney Wolinsky’s editing accomplishes its mission. Yvonne J. Hurst provided the production design, which looks OK; Brian Adler’s score is a plus.

Circle of Deceit

Thurs. (29), 9-11 p.m., ABC

Production

Filmed in Vancouver by Andrea Baynes Prods. and ABC Pictures. Exec producer, Andrea Baynes; co-exec producer-writer, Karen Clark; producer, Barbara Kelly; co-producer, Janine Turner; director, Alan Metzger.

Crew

Camera, Ron Stannett; editor, Sydney Wolinsky; production designer, Yvonne J. Hurst; sound, Ralph Parker; music, Brian Adler; casting, Rhonda Young.

Cast

Cast: Janine Turner, Esai Morales, Joanna Cassidy, Tracy Griffith, Matthew Prior, Robert Wisden, Dean Wray, Jerry Wasserman, Don McKay, Alannah Ong, Karin Konoval, Marci Goldberg, L. Harry Gold, Kendall Cross, Norma Jean Wica, B.J. Harrison, Chris Wilding, Nadia-Leigh Nascimento, Aurelio Dinunzio, Dee Jay Jackson, David Valentine, Mary Black.
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