NBC’s “A Town Torn Apart” aims for inspiration in troubled times and hits the target in intent, entertainment proficiency and performances. The trouble on the “message” aspect is that it’s shooting a BB gun in an Uzi gallery.
Based on the true story of one man’s turnaround of a small-town school, the production companies and the network would have been better off sticking to former title, “Doc: The Dennis Littky Story.”
The more violent-sounding new title proffers something stronger than the gentle fable-like story delivers. Small-town rural audiences with similar problems may relate to problems of fist fights and bored, cigarette-smoking, bad tempered and frustrated high school students but urbanites–and especially teachers–faced with drugs, guns, knives and daily death will only wish things were so simple.
Michael Tucker plays Littky, who takes over as principal at troubled Thayer High School in Wimchester, N.H. Faculty members have thrown up their hands until he infuses teachers and students with his enthusiasm.
The “Torn Apart” element amounts to a few it-wasn’t-done-that-way-when-we-went-to-school blue noses who’ve never listened to nightly newscasts or ventured beyond the city, and feel a principal should shave his beard and wear a tie or he can’t teach their kids. (If it weren’t a “true” story, it would seem too pat.)
Those people oust Littky, but the students he has urged to fight for education now urge him to “fight” for his job. He does.
Daniel Petrie’s direction is fine, as is Anne Gerard’s script from Susan Kammeraad-Campbell’s book. Their major problem is that not every school has problems and solutions like these: a student smoking a cigarette on school grounds isn’t really the same as a student smoking crack.
Performances are uniformly solid, with Tucker holding focal point with energy.