By Terry Kelleher Mike Lipton Cynthia Sanz
May 30, 2005 12:00 PM

CBS (Wed., May 25, 9 p.m. ET)

Sure, you may claim to be a serious student of sensational homicides, but the acid test comes May 25: Will you forgo the second hour of the Lost or American Idol season finales so you can catch all of this adequate but undistinguished adaptation of Amber Frey’s book Witness?

Only the media-deprived can be unaware that massage therapist Frey is the ex-lover of Scott Peterson, the smooth-talking fertilizer salesman who was convicted last year of murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn child. Frey, initially fooled into thinking Peterson was unattached, wound up helping police and prosecutors build a case against him. Given the saturation coverage of this story, the inevitable TV movie needed actors who looked the part. Not a problem: Janel Moloney (The West Wing) is the spitting image of Amber, and little-known Nathan Anderson’s similarity to Scott is too close for comfort. What’s more, their performances are believable. Moloney wins sympathy as a single mom trying to forget past romantic setbacks, and Anderson is just right as a compulsive liar who seems to have himself at least half-convinced.

Unfortunately, the film sheds too little light on Amber’s life apart from her relationship with Scott. When tabloids get ahold of nude photos of Amber, we see her as a victim of the vile press but receive skimpy information on how the pictures came to be taken. After her role in the Peterson case makes her a public figure, Amber becomes pregnant by a friend whose character is barely sketched in. Without a fuller portrait of the heroine, this amounts to a competent rehash of a thoroughly reported story. If you don’t watch the whole thing, you’ll live.