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To Love, Honor and Deceive

(Sun. (15), 9:00-11:00 p.m., ABC)

(Sun. (15), 9:00-11:00 p.m., ABC)

Filmed in Charlotte, N.C., by Robert Greenwald Prods. Executive producer, Kimberly Rubin; producer, Philip Kleinbart; co-producer, Michael Stroud; director, Michael Watkins; writer, David Rosenfelt; Made-for starring the curvaceous Vanessa Marcil (“General Hospital,” “The Rock”) avoids one pitfall of the woman-in-distress formula — hysterics. The heroine is relatively sanguine about being abandoned by her husband and losing her son. Diversions offered by director Michael Watkins and certain aspects of David Rosenfelt’s script betray an intermittently realized ambition. Stab at a big-league mystery-thriller comes up short.

This misused wife and mother doesn’t pause very long to pity herself, agonize or whine. Though her navel is exposed on at least one occasion, she spends a minimum of time gazing at it.

Susan is a dutiful homemaker, having taken a break from her career as a film editor. Her well-heeled husband, played by “Chicago Hope’s” Thomas Gibson, is living a double life and stages his death, along with their son’s, in a sailing accident. She’s not the only one snookered: The FBI and a local underworld figure are desperate to find him.

There’s a peculiar lack of anger toward the husband; Susan just wants her 5 -year-old son back, and no one better get in her way. Costumes belie the notion she’s using only her wits and research ability to track her son down. James Wilder plays her detective in shining armor, and there’s a warm connection between the two actors.

The second victim in the movie is a sense of real time. A lot transpires over a brief period, and much of it, especially details about the husband’s relationship with the FBI, unfolds clumsily.

Watkins and photographer Michael O’Shea try to enliven the format with a couple of quick-edit sequences that use strobe effects. Two brief musicvideos take the place of filler dialogue. The stock scenes, such as when Susan’s attacked in her house, are handled well.

Secondary characterizations — Leland Orser as an FBI agent, William R. Moses as a crime boss on the run and John Capodice as a flashy attorney — strain to be quirky and detailed. Yet the one cipher in Rosenfelt’s teleplay is the husband we learn too little about.

Soundtrack is a grab bag of sounds and styles, with the lyrics to two songs belonging in another movie. “To Love, Honor and Deceive” is a frustrated feature that succeeds in scattershot fashion.

To Love, Honor and Deceive

  • Production: ABC, SUN. DEC. 15, 9 P.M.
  • Crew: Camera, Michael D. O'Shea; editor, Peter B. Ellis; production designer, Diane Hughes; sound, Don Summer; music, Brian Adler; casting, Mary Jo Slater, John A. Aiello. 2 HOURS.
  • With: Cast: Vanessa Marcil, James Wilder, Leland Orser, Rosalind Chao, John Capodice, William R. Moses, Thomas Gibson, Christian Durango, Mitchell Laurance, Carl McIntyre, Andrew Massett, Fred Nash, Stephanie Allen, John Bennes, Diana Taylor, Janet Sherkow, Dean Mumford, Ralph Wilcox, J.C. Quinn, Hank Troscianiec, Al Wiggins, Henderson Gilleland, Frank Taylor, Joann Pankow, Rhoda Griffis, Lenny Steinline.
  • Music By: