CBS (Tues., April 2, 9 P.M. ET)
This is a dramatization of the friendship between football star Ricky Bell and handicapped youngster Ryan Blankenship. “Mario Van Peebles, director of New Jack I City, plays Bell, who developed a rare muscle disease during his career as a pro running back in the early ’80s. Lynn (The Josephine Baker Story) Whitfield plays his wife. I Lane Davis portrays the boy, Susan (L.A. Law) Ruttan his mother, and Polly (Alice) Holliday his grandmother. There are cameos by three real-life running backs. Marcus Allen, Anthony Davis and Charles White, who, like Bell, starred at USC as collegians.
As you might surmise from the title, you’re in for a tearjerker. And as onion dicers go, this is rather unimaginative. But Van Peebles’s completely charming performance and uncommonly good on-field and I locker-room footage make this the most moving TV movie about football since James Caan and Billy Dee Williams starred in Brian’s Song.