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Calendar Girl, Cop, Killer?: The Bambi Bembenek Story

This intricate, well-crafted and surprisingly even-handed docudrama is honest enough to let the audience reach its own conclusions about the innocence or guilt of a young woman, a former calendar girl and policewoman, convicted of murdering her husband's ex-wife. One suspects a viewer poll would reveal a hung jury.

With:
Cast: Timothy Busfield, Lindsay Frost, John Karlen, Linda Blair, James Sloyan , Kathlenn Garrett, John Pleshette, Peter Jurasik, Tobin Bell, James Handy, Tom Mason, Ed Lauter, Don Davis, Susanna Thompson, Stephen Liska, Steve Sandor, Matt Roe, Mort Sertner, Anthony Addabbo, Grant Gelt, Adam Hendershott, Daniel Trent, Jeanette O'Connor, Roger Rook, Jay Irwin, Ken Kerman, Steve Chase, Kevin Brief, Dink O'Neal and John Dunbar.

This intricate, well-crafted and surprisingly even-handed docudrama is honest enough to let the audience reach its own conclusions about the innocence or guilt of a young woman, a former calendar girl and policewoman, convicted of murdering her husband’s ex-wife. One suspects a viewer poll would reveal a hung jury.

Lawrencia (Bambi) Bembenek (Lindsay Frost) became a second-or third-tier celebrity when she escaped from a Wisconsin prison while serving a life term for the murder. She was apprehended soon after in Canada, though doubts about the validity of the case presented against her seem to be escalating.

As presented here, Bambi is intelligent and attractive, though not terribly insightful about men. She also was blunt, alienating her superiors in the Milwaukee Police Department (“You can either be a police woman or you can be a feminist. Where does it say you can’t be both?”).

Muscled off the force, she marries an unsavory detective (marvelously played by Timothy Busfield) who has a hard time making the alimony payments. One night, the ex-wife is shot to death in her bed. A thick net of circumstantial evidence brought the guilty verdict against Bambi, who subsequently lost three appeals.

Lindsay Frost is thoroughly convincing as a proud, blue collar woman bristling under the chauvinistic snubs of the police force. And while generating a considerable level of respect, even sympathy, from the audience, Frost subtly reveals an aspect of Bambi that is unsettling and just steely enough to make one suspect she was more than capable of the murder.

The script of Larry and Paul Barber effectively uses a reporter as the springboard for flashbacks by various players in the drama. It is also a script that never lets one rest too long with a belief of innocent or guilty. The conflicting evidence is perplexing, but it heightens the drama.

Director Jerry London has merged the script, performances and staging into a drama that gives us remarkable access to this intriguing woman, but not so much access that we can see into her soul. And it is that inaccessibility, that denial of an easy solution, that makes this such a unique and rewarding television drama.

Calendar Girl, Cop, Killer?: The Bambi Bembenek Story

Mon. (18), 9-11 p.m., ABC

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by von Zerneck-Sertner Films. Exec producers, Frank von Zerneck and Robert M. Sertner; producer, Jerry London; co-producers, Robert Engelman and Randy Sutter; director, London; writer, Larry Barber and Paul Barber; based on a book by John Greenya.

Crew: Camera, Billy Dickson; editor, Michael Brown; sound mixer, Mark Bovos; music, Dana Kaproff; production designer, Mick Stawn.

Cast: Cast: Timothy Busfield, Lindsay Frost, John Karlen, Linda Blair, James Sloyan , Kathlenn Garrett, John Pleshette, Peter Jurasik, Tobin Bell, James Handy, Tom Mason, Ed Lauter, Don Davis, Susanna Thompson, Stephen Liska, Steve Sandor, Matt Roe, Mort Sertner, Anthony Addabbo, Grant Gelt, Adam Hendershott, Daniel Trent, Jeanette O'Connor, Roger Rook, Jay Irwin, Ken Kerman, Steve Chase, Kevin Brief, Dink O'Neal and John Dunbar.

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