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‘Door to Door’

The year in telepics

“Door to Door” is the kind of movie that, in lesser hands, might have made viewers cringe. Based on the true story of a man with cerebral palsy who overcame great odds and prejudice to succeed as a salesman, the TNT telepic, broadcast last summer, could have wallowed in sentiment.

Fortunately, William H. Macy played the man, Bill Porter, and the performance was as unflinching as it was unsentimental. Given the usual small-screen treatment of the disabled as saintly, Macy evoked something all too rare — a real human being.

After the death of his salesman father in the 1950s, a young Porter went looking for a job. Driven around by his mother (Helen Mirren), he eventually convinced a dubious district sales manager to let him take the least desirable route to prove himself.

Over the course of 40 years, he was voted salesman of the year and he became something special to just about every customer on his route. Along the way, though, he could sometimes be as stubborn and insensitive as he was patient and understanding. Macy wove all the traits together to form a complete man, warts and all, instead of a hokey example for how we should all behave.

Macy also co-wrote the script with director Steven Schachter (the two have written several together), and the result, pretty much from opening shot to closing credit, was a telepic that sought respect, not pity.