The CBS Sunday Night Movie has seen its once-dominant ratings weaken since “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “The Practice” joined the Sunday fray, but it remains the only true stalwart performer among network telepic franchises. Fox and NBC, meanwhile, have turned primarily to theatricals with the occasional event miniseries, a breed on the wane, and the Alphabet web’s made-for efforts have been the very definition of hit and miss, scoring mostly when Oprah Winfrey’s name is attached to the title. “Personally Yours,” the first CBS telepic of the season, demonstrates exactly why the net manages to hold onto its faithful, albeit older, audience. An easygoing tale of a divorced couple who find their love rekindled, the film’s nothing to write home about, but it’s cast exceedingly well and executed with a modest but ever-present charm.
The fact that this straightforward pic is inspired by actual events is especially easy to believe, given that nothing very outlandish happens. Valerie Bertinelli and Jeffrey Nordling (“Once and Again”) display some very nice chemistry as Susannah and Jack Stanton, a couple with three kids who found themselves growing apart and divorced after 15 years of marriage. Jack runs a ranch in the Alaskan wilderness, while Susannah, craving a bit less isolation, has started a restaurant in Anchorage.
Despairing that their parents will never reunite, their so-very-precocious kids — led by 16-year-old Bridget (Brittney Irvin) — decide it’s time for dad to find a new mate to keep him company far from civilization. So they send in his picture to “Alaska Love,” a magazine that used to be about hunting and fishing but found a more lucrative niche advertising lonely men in Alaska to lonely women everywhere. When Jack’s strapping visage gets plastered on the magazine’s cover, interested women begin flying to Alaska unannounced, certain they’re a match for this modern Gary Cooper.
The stalking scenes are quite entertaining, and Nordling does an excellent job keeping the comic beats restrained and believable, setting up a nice second half where Susannah, in a very solid performance from Bertinelli, realizes she might still be in love with Jack.
Teleplay by Jill Blotevogel remains thoroughly predictable, but it never tries to be more than a simple story and even has a few small insights to offer. Director Jeffrey Reiner captures just the right relaxed tone, and the strong tech elements contribute to the fluid, clear storytelling. Sure, it’s still kind of bland, but it’s appealing nonetheless.