Filmed in British Columbia by Brillstein/Grey Prods. in association with Columbia Pictures Television. Executive producers, Brad Grey, Bernie Brillstein, Bob Saget; producer, Karen Moore; director, Bob Saget; writer, Susan Rice; camera, Ron Orieux; editor, Michael S. Murphy; production designer, Michael Nemirsky; art director, Michael Wong; sound, Ralph Parker; music, Peter Rodgers Melnick; casting, Margery Simkin. Cast: Dana Delany, Polly Bergen, Harold Gould, Tracy Nelson, Chris Demetral, Henry Czerny, Carly McKillip, Alexandra Purvis, Lesley Ewen, Babz Chula, Sharon Monsky, Christine Willes, Peter Kelamis, Mandy McKeen, Dave Hurtubise, Christine Chatelain, Evan Tylor, Sadie Lawrence, Britt Lind, Linden Banks, Jessi Cruickshank, Aisleagh Jackson, Alex Romano, Aurora McDiarmid, Myles Ferguson, Douglas Newell, Hiro Kanagawa, Robert Rozen, Paul Raskin, Peter Lacroix, Angela Moore, B.J. Harrison, Ross Hallaway, Wayne Bennett. Life and death really are like a sitcom according to this story of a family coping with the disease scleroderma. This metaphor animates the material as well as its presentation by director and exec producer Bob Saget, no stranger to sitcoms and the lighter side of TV (“Full House,” “America’s Funniest Home Videos”). Surprisingly, the approach is fresh and evocative. As other telepics demonstrate on a regular basis, there are worse ways to treat diseases-of-the-week. Saget lost a sister to scleroderma, a degenerative ailment that causes the skin and vital organs to literally harden and then deteriorate. In the telepic, crying ultimately overtakes laughter, but humor in various forms much of it feeble is shown to serve a useful purpose. Dana Delany impressively limns the title character, a Philadelphia schoolteacher and single mother of a teenage boy, who suddenly gets sick. Only when she moves to California to live with her parents (Polly Bergen and Harold Gould) is she accurately diagnosed. Her parents, having lost one daughter to an aneurysm, are in denial; her son (Chris Demetral) can only think of himself. Most of all, we see the toll on brother Ken (Henry Czerny), a successful sitcom writer and clearly a stand-in for Saget. Czerny turns in a strong performance as the perpetual cut-up whose only defense is making wisecracks. At his most desperate, he tries to strike a bargain. “Please, God, don’t do this. I’ll do anything. I’ll write jokes for TomSnyder. Please just let her get better.” This approach runs in the family. They needle one another and tell stale jokes while dining at the father’s deli. Hope has her own arsenal of humor, sarcasm being the marquee weapon. The banter in Susan Rice’s teleplay doesn’t always come off, pointedly (if unintentionally) demonstrating that humor needn’t be good to counteract sadness or fear. Saget, exhibiting a natural showman’s quick rhythm, gets laughs using commercial-like sequences. John Ritter, Louie Anderson and Peter Scolari have cameos as Hope’s blind dates. Doctors are skewered in a similar sequence. The overall effect is of a series of sketch routines spliced together. Playing it thus has the virtue of providing energy. And rapidly juxtaposing frivolity and fear seems especially true to life. Technically, Saget and photographer Ron Orieux put pressure on the actors by using tight headshots almost exclusively. The first-rate cast, especially Bergen and Gould, seem constricted by the material at times. Demetral , who could pass for a younger Czerny, is a spare and intelligent actor. Tracy Nelson plays a baby-making appendage to husband Ken until late in the movie when her character injects sobriety. Makeup by Thomas Burman, Ban Dreiband-Burman and Todd McIntosh is excellent. A point of comparison is provided by Sharon Monsky, who runs an organization for scleroderma victims and appears as herself in one scene. Sheryl Crow sings “My Funny Valentine” over the end credits. The limits of jocularity are eventually realized. No one is helping Hope prepare for death. A long deathbed scene is wrenching. Rather than uplift or divert, the stabs at levity and the entertainment metaphor permeating “For Hope” make the handling of a painful loss seem grounded and intense.