May 22, 2000 12:00 PM

HBO (Sat, May 20, 9 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

Jeff Daniels is running the ethical gamut in 2000. He started the year in The Crossing with a believable portrayal of George Washington, a man famously averse to lying. In this drama he’s equally convincing as Gerald Plecki, a Chicago teacher at the center of a true-life scandal in 1995. Plecki tries to inspire his underdog Steinmetz High team in the Illinois Academic Decathlon, but a magnet school, Whitney Young High, seems certain to win for the 10th straight year. Then one of Plecki’s students obtains a stolen copy of the test. Take advantage or play by the rules? Plecki and his charges pick the wrong answer and keep rationalizing even after their illgotten triumph is taken away.

Cheaters is not narrowly judgmental; in fact, most of the words we hear tend to justify the conspiracy. But seeing the pain of repressed guilt in Daniels’s eyes, we realize honesty is still the best policy.

Bottom Line: Scores high

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