March 17, 1997 12:00 PM

USA (Wed., March 19, 9 p.m. ET)


Joyce Carol Oates coined the word “pathography” to describe how modern biographers reduce their subjects’ lives to (as she put it) “dysfunction and disaster, illnesses and pratfalls, failed marriages and failed careers, alcoholism and breakdowns and outrageous behavior.” But there is the pathautobiography too, of which Greg Louganis’s Breaking the Surface is a prime example. In the 1995 bestseller, the Olympic medalist, now 37, revealed not only that he was gay but that he was HIV positive, dyslexic, and that he had been abused by his manager-lover. One could no longer think of this tremendously vulnerable man simply as a world-class diver—the personal turmoils now signified as much as the athletic triumphs.

This adequate, two-hour TV adaptation of the autobiography certainly won’t change that. Mario Lopez, best known as A.C. Slater from Saved by the Bell, is physically right for the starring role, but Louganis, at least as he is depicted here, is extremely passive. It’s hard to make dramatic hay with such a personality. Patrick David, as the 15-year-old Louganis, does a bit more with the part. He adds some shy charm and brooding sadness.

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