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Amazing Grace

TV and film vet Patty Duke returns with a lukewarm hour series revolving around a widowed, newly ordained minister who's got two kids. Hardly a challenge to the remarkable Duke, the milk-fed opening drama, scripted by exec producers Shelley List and Jonathan Estrin, is an attempted cockle-warmer that unwinds with no suspense, no bite and little chance.

With:
Cast: Patty Duke, Joe Spano, Lorraine Toussaint, Robin Gammell, Marguerite Moreau, Justin Garms, Gavin Harrison, Dan Lauria, Harry Kramer, Betsy Brantley, Keegan MacIntosh, Shuko Akune, Tony Anthony, Tony Lincoln, Bobby Kotula.

TV and film vet Patty Duke returns with a lukewarm hour series revolving around a widowed, newly ordained minister who’s got two kids. Hardly a challenge to the remarkable Duke, the milk-fed opening drama, scripted by exec producers Shelley List and Jonathan Estrin, is an attempted cockle-warmer that unwinds with no suspense, no bite and little chance.

Hannah Miller (Duke) has shifted into religion because she had a near-death foray thanks to too many pills.

For openers, she’s just movinginto her first church as well as becoming hospital chaplain. Hannah, 16-year-old daughter Jenny (Marguerite Moreau) and younger son Brian (Justin Garms) move across town to a dingy house near her church, where deacon Sutherland (Robin Gammell) doesn’t exactly welcome her.

Hospital worker Carol (Betsy Brantley) has a son Brian’s age, and she needs Hannah’s help because tough cop Dominick Corso (Joe Spano) may have uncovered something about her.

Of course everything falls into place under Rick Rosenthal’s uninspired direction. Duke has little chance if succeeding episodes are as shallow as this. The actress, who long ago demonstrated her extraordinary range, is stuck with a thin character who does little to surprise or interest audiences. It seems Hannah is a problem-solver and she prays by the lake. Sentimentality and pluck will keep her going, but not for long.

Secondary characters are also stereotypes, with Shuko Akune cast in the silly part of a county clerk who bargains for dates.

To cap the first hour, the lovely “Amazing Grace” is sung by a choir as Hannah stands in the pulpit for the first time; sniffles in the chapel, but hardly a wet eye at home.

Tech credits are good, and Duke flails away as though it matters. It doesn’t.

Amazing Grace

NBC, Sat. April 1, 8-9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, by List/Estrin Prods., Ma Pearce Prods. Inc. and NBC Prods. Executive producers/writers, Jonathan Estrin, Shelley List; co-executive producer, Anna Pearce; supervising producer, Marshall Goldberg; producers, Joe Viola, Brooke Kennedy; creator, Deborah Jones; director, Rick Rosenthal.

Crew: Camera, Ron Draper; editor, Michael Eliot; production designer, Pat Tagliaferro; sound, Britt Warner; music, Ray Bunch. 60 MIN.

With: Cast: Patty Duke, Joe Spano, Lorraine Toussaint, Robin Gammell, Marguerite Moreau, Justin Garms, Gavin Harrison, Dan Lauria, Harry Kramer, Betsy Brantley, Keegan MacIntosh, Shuko Akune, Tony Anthony, Tony Lincoln, Bobby Kotula.

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