May 19, 1997 12:00 PM

ABC (Mon., May 19, 9 p.m. ET)


In real-life hostage dramas, as they call them on the newscasts, the police negotiator needs to make the hostage-taker believe him. Since this is a TV movie—ABC calls it “a dramatization inspired by an actual event”—the negotiator must convince the viewer as well as the perpetrator. Skip Fine (Henry Winkler) gets only part of the job done. After a fumbling start, the inexperienced lawman manages to calm Jason Copeland (Rick Schroder), a 20-year-old dead-ender who shoots up the high school from which he failed to graduate and takes scores of students hostage. But we don’t buy Skip’s blossoming from a schnook with comically low self-confidence into an assertive pro with the guts to tell off an FBI man and a SWAT team leader. (It puts us in even less of a buying mood to learn that Skip had a previous career as a used-car salesman.)

If we didn’t have Skip’s personal growth to think about, we could concentrate on the interesting interaction between Jason, a callow version of the heavily armed avenger in Taxi Driver, and hostage Aaron Sullivan (nicely played by Freddie Prinze Jr.), a scholastic underachiever who’s smart enough to nudge the gunman into one concession after another. Call off the cop—the kid’s doing just fine.

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