You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

NBC Sunday Night at the Movies Witness to the Execution

Glossy, crisply edited and packed with ideas about a media run amok, "Witness to the Execution," starring Sean Young and Tim Daly, is television's answer to such theatrical movies as "Network" and "Broadcast News."

Cast: Sean Young, Tim Daly, Len Cariou, George Newbern, Dee Wallace Stone, Alan Fudge, Maria Gonzalez Palmier, Brian Markinson.

Glossy, crisply edited and packed with ideas about a media run amok, “Witness to the Execution,” starring Sean Young and Tim Daly, is television’s answer to such theatrical movies as “Network” and “Broadcast News.”

It’s 1999 and a 500-channel television universe has bred such a competitive market that a floundering pay-per-view giant hits on a blockbuster idea that the whole country will watch: a live execution.

A glimpse in the near-future is ruefully established early on as Young’s leggy program exec drives through casually observing scores of muggings and assaults under way on every street corner. It’s a ripe background touch that sets up the movie’s concern with a society in which crime is more prevalent than entertainment.

Under pressure from her pay-per-view boss (Len Cariou), who has just lost a fortune airing the dismal comeback of an ex-champ returning to the ring after five years in jail, Young’s high-powered exec has a brainstorm — snuff TV.

With gargantuan proceeds dancing in everyone’s head, the pitch to prison and state authorities for rights to the first live televised execution is adorned with noble moralizing about the benefits: The justice system will remain unsullied, the state will share in the take and be able to put more cops on the street and, finally, the broadcast will serve as a great public deterrent to crime.

The movie, with a refreshing lack of any overt moralizing of its own, effectively dramatizes where the real lunacy lies.

The pay-per-view exec’s death-row choice is a photogenic killer charismatically played by Tim Daly who, it develops, may or may not be guilty of a triple murder. That question enriches a tantalizing, albeit occasionally murky , subplot involving Dee Wallace Stone (with a solid performance) as a frazzled Daly groupie and Young going soft on the killer before realizing the insanity of her ways.

The script (by Thomas Baum from a story by Baum, Keith Pierce and Priscilla Prestwidge) effectively orchestrates the multi-layered thematic material.

Director Tommy Lee Wallace (who helmed “And the Sea Will Tell,” one of the best TV movies of ’92) intelligently probes a high-tech world dominated by those 500 channels and walls of video screens.

NBC Sunday Night at the Movies Witness to the Execution

Sun. (13), 9-11 p.m., NBC

Production: Filmed in Houston by the Frederick S. Pierce Co. Exec producers, Frederick S. Pierce, Keith Pierce, Richard Pierson; line producer, Casey Lee Justice; director, Tommy Lee Wallace; script, Thomas Baum, from a story by Keith Pierce, Priscilla Prestwidge, Baum.

Crew: Camera, Richard Leiterman; editor, Patrick Kennedy; production design, John Frick; music, Mark Snow.

Cast: Cast: Sean Young, Tim Daly, Len Cariou, George Newbern, Dee Wallace Stone, Alan Fudge, Maria Gonzalez Palmier, Brian Markinson.

More TV

  • Santa Fe Studios Netflix

    Santa Fe Studios Competes With Other New Mexico Stages for Streaming Business

    Albuquerque Studios entered the spotlight last October when it was purchased by Netflix. While the complex is clearly the jewel in the crown of New Mexico’s production infrastructure, with eight soundstages totaling 132,000 square feet, 100,000 square feet of production offices, a large backlot and support space, it’s not the only modern studio facility in [...]

  • Wahlburgers

    'Wahlburgers' Renewed for 10th and Final Season at A&E

    A&E has renewed “Wahlburgers” for a 10th and final season. The reality series following brothers Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg will debut the new installment at on May 15. A&E has also released a trailer for the season. Season 10 will continue to focus on the Wahlberg brothers as they balance family and their eponymous [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    From 'Game of Thrones' to 'Big Bang Theory,' Spinoffs Will Keep the Hits Alive

    By this time next year, many of the brightest lights in the current TV universe will cease to shine. Some of the most popular and acclaimed shows are set to air their swan songs this year and during the 2019-20 broadcast season. While programs come and go all the time, the sheer number of iconic [...]

  • Jussie Smollett Empire

    TV Ratings: Jussie Smollett's Final Episode of 'Empire' Season 5 Goes Low

    Last night, Jussie Smollett’s final episode of “Empire” season 5, and potentially his last episode on the show ever, went up in the ratings from previous weeks, but still posted low figures for the series. The episode, in which Smollett’s character Jamal Lyon tied the knot in TV’s first-ever black, gay wedding, returned a 1.1 [...]

  • NFL Draft Ratings

    Disney Says Ads Are Sold Out for NFL Draft on ESPN, ABC

    Madison Avenue can’t place ads in NFL TV broadcasts in the off-season – there aren’t any – so it’s doing the next best thing. Disney says ad slots for its coverage of the NFL Draft, slated to air Thursday, Friday and Saturday on both ABC and ESPN, sold out about a week ago. Football can [...]

  • Mala Chapple Todd Radnitz

    Viacom’s Music Group Taps Mala Chapple and Todd Radnitz

    Viacom’s Music Group, which comprises of MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo, has tapped Mala Chapple and Todd Radnitz to join its executive team, Variety has learned. Chapple will assume the position of SVP of content strategy, operations and media partnerships, while Todd Radnitz will be the company’s new SVP of original series. “Mala and Todd are at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content