ABC (Sun., Jan. 12, 9 P.M. ET)
Patty Duke stars as journalist Betty Rollin in this demanding and disturbing dramatization of Rollin’s highly personal book about the controversial topic of assisted suicide. At the center of the story is Rollin’s mother (Maureen Stapleton), who, afflicted with terminal ovarian cancer, asks her daughter’s help in taking her own life.
The ravages of disease are presented unsparingly. But because the script brooks little debate about Stapleton’s anguishing solution, the emotions are muffled right through the deathbed scene—despite convincing performances by Stapleton and Duke.
On Jan. 14, HBO presents Suicide Notes, a documentary on a related subject: the growing number of white adult males taking their lives in this country—more than 20,000 a year. It’s a sobering though superficial look at the dark despair that grips some men. As for Last Wish, it’s a strange mix of visceral and aloof.